The Gophers women’s basketball team entered its matchup with Wisconsin tied for last place in the Big Ten after back-to-back overtime losses. So Minnesota was in dire need of an elusive win to help flip the script in a disappointing conference start.
Rachel Banham and Micaëlla Riché did just that in the Gophers’ 64-53 win over the Badgers on Thursday night before an announced 2,759 at Williams Arena.
It wasn’t necessarily a must-win in coach Pam Borton’s eyes, but it could serve as a launching pad heading into the second half of the Big Ten schedule.
“It gives our kids some confidence,” Borton said.
Banham, as she has almost all season, led the Gophers (13-7, 2-4 Big Ten) with 19 points. Riché was even better all-around. In arguably her best game of the season, the senior forward had 15 points, a season-high 10 rebounds and a game-high five assists.
Riché was 7-for-11 from the field. The double-double was the sixth of her career.
From the start, the Badgers placed an added emphasis on stopping the Gophers star guard. Banham, who scored 33 points and 29 points in her past two games, made only four of 12 from the floor in the first half.
“It was frustrating missing some of the shots I usually can make,” Banham said, “but I thought other people were doing good things.
“There are going to be games where I’m not going to make all my shots. … It’ll come again. We won and that’s all that matters.”
Wisconsin took a 29-23 lead into the halftime, but Banham converted a three-point play to start the second half and that was just the beginning for the Gophers.
“We were very stagnant and we were all standing around watching Rachel shoot the ball in the first half,” Borton said.
Not in the second half.
The Gophers clawed their way back into the game primarily behind Banham, who was 4-for-7 in the second half, and Riché, who played at center most of the game because 6-5 Amanda Zahui B. was in foul trouble.
“We knew we had to really step it up,” Riché said. “We didn’t really feel like we had a good pace going and stuff. It was just a collective effort [in the second half] … just to get it done.”
Banham buried a key three-pointer with a little more than seven minutes left that stretched the Gophers’ lead to 47-42.
Wisconsin never threatened again.
Shayne Mullaney also was in double figures for the Gophers with 11 points while reserve Kayla Hirt had 10. Morgan Paige led the Badgers (9-9, 2-4) with 13 points.
“It was a good win, especially going against Penn State next” on Sunday, Banham said. “It just gives us a little bit of momentum and a little more confidence.”