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Banham powers U to two-OT victory

  • Article by: AARON PAITICH
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • December 31, 2012 - 7:35 AM

Rachel Banham made Williams Arena go deathly silent toward the end of the first half on Sunday. Then she tore the roof off.

The sophomore guard scored 18 points in the second half and 15 in two overtime periods, leading a comeback that gave the Gophers an 88-81 victory over Creighton.

Banham started out just like the Gophers did: miserably. The Gophers found themselves down by as much as 20 points and, adding to their concerns, Banham hit the floor hard with 2:43 left in the first half, banging up her neck and head.

No biggie. Minnesota motored its way back into the game on the back of Banham, who returned to start the second half and finished with a career-high 39 points.

"The first half wasn't a very good half for me, and I think it was almost a good thing," Banham said of the injury. "I mean, it didn't feel good, but after that it was good. I came back strong."

She didn't just start the second half. She dominated.

"The first half was gross. It was just not good," Banham said. "I knew the second half, if we wanted to win, I had to take over. So I think that's what I did."

Banham went 13-for-13 from the line and spearheaded the rally with basket after basket. Aided by Micaella Riche's 23-point, 10-rebound double-double, Minnesota (11-3) showed resiliency.

The Gophers pulled within 10 points with less than four minutes to play in regulation. Banham tied the score with 43 seconds left, taking on a horde of defenders and scoring on a bank shot.

Banham scored seven points in the first overtime, but with 15 seconds left and the Gophers leading 72-69, Creighton drew up its final possession. Jordan Garrison drained a three- pointer -- one of the Bluejays' 10 in the game -- to send it to double overtime.

Riche continued her roll in the second extra session and put the Gophers up by five with two inside baskets. Banham added to the lead, and a Shayne Mullaney jumper gave Minnesota an 82-76 lead with 1:54 left that held up.

Creighton freshman guard Marissa Janning, Minnesota's Miss Basketball in 2012, had 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists before fouling out in the first overtime. The former Watertown-Mayer star was 4-for-5 on three-pointers.

Gophers coach Pam Borton said this was a win that helps define the current roster, which includes a shining star, Banham.

"I think the last three years, our teams would have panicked," Borton said. "I think we're getting our swag back with this program, and we've got better players in our program and we've got a pretty special player in our program now that can take a game over and draw three people and it leaves everybody else open."

The Gophers open Big Ten play on the road Thursday against Michigan State.

"I think we can finish games, and we're showing people that we can win games, we can beat good teams, and this is just good motivation going into the Big Ten," Banham said.

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