Rachel Banham had yet another monster game Thursday night. This time it was enough to snap the Gophers women's basketball team out of its Big Ten funk as Minnesota defeated Michigan 82-67 at Williams Arena to end a four-game skid.
Banham made it clear after the game: The losses had to end. Now.
"This is the time to start doing it," said the sophomore guard, who followed her 37-point performance in a 91-86 loss to Illinois on Monday with 32 against the Wolverines. "We can't waste any more games. We really needed it. Now we need to keep rolling with it."
She backed it up. Banham started the game the same way she finished Monday's contest against Illinois: sizzling hot.
She was 5-for-5 from the field with 17 points, including 3-for-3 from three-point range, in the first half. She also made all four of her free-throw attempts and had two assists, one steal and zero turnovers. She finished 11-for-15 from the field and 6-for-8 from behind the arc.
Banham, the Big Ten's leading scorer at 21.5 points per game, dropped in a three to help fuel a 10-0 Gophers run early in the second half. She even set some time aside from scoring to make a no-look, over-the-head pass to Kayla Hirt, who finished with a layup to put the Gophers up 72-59 with 6:03 remaining.
The Gophers (14-8, 3-5 Big Ten) committed only four turnovers. Micaella Riche scored 15 points. Shayne Mullaney added eight points while tying her career high with eight assists. Hirt finished with 10 points.
Minnesota got itself into foul trouble quickly in the second half, putting Michigan in the bonus with 10:48 left to play. The Wolverines (16-5, 5-3) didn't take advantage of it as their shooting cooled off and Minnesota's stayed piping hot. The Gophers shot 59.3 percent from the field, a team high in Big Ten play this year.
All of it might mean Banham will see more time back at point guard in the near future.
"I think that really showed me a lot, that she needs to play the point a lot more than what she has been, so she can really control basically what the whole team's doing offensively," Gophers coach Pam Borton said.
Michigan began the game with a 7-2 lead, but the Gophers hung tight. Riche came up with a steal and dished it to Banham to help the Gophers tie the score at 8-8. Banham drained a three-pointer to cap an 11-1 run.
The Gophers strung together an 11-2 run to close out the half with a 43-39 lead. Michigan outrebounded Minnesota 14-8 in the first half, and both teams shot around 60 percent from the field. The Gophers committed only one turnover in the first half while scoring 11 points off seven Wolverines turnovers.
Former Wayzata star Kate Thompson led the Wolverines with 18 points. Rachel Sheffer finished with 17 and nine rebounds.