Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.

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Gophers women muddle through tune-up for basketball opener

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under Sports Updated: November 4, 2012 - 9:20 PM

The Gophers women's basketball team has one proven scorer in sophomore guard Rachel Banham.

She was the Big Ten's rookie of the year last season when she averaged 16.1points per game. And she will score this season, too.

Banham had a team-high 20 points as the Gophers beat Minnesota State Mankato 66-56 on Sunday at Williams Arena. She was six-for-12 from the field and made all eight free throws she took. She drove to the basket at times, scored on fast breaks and popped several outside shots.

She supposed to do that.

Offering more promise was the play of Micaella Riche, the 6-2 junior forward from Gloucester, Ontario. She had 19 points and 12 rebounds. Last season Riche averaged 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds coming off the bench. She played only 15.7 minutes per game.

In looking at her stats, though, one has to consider the opposition, too. MSU starts three guards and two forwards, one 6-1, the other 6-0. The Gophers won't face many teams as short as that. Riche was eight-for-14 from the floor, scoring mostly inside, making one nice spin and under move. Hitting a medium jumper, too.

The Gophers need another big scorer or two besides Banham and Riche is a candidate.

Nobody else scored in double figures for the maroon and gold.

And Gophers coach Pam Borton was not pleased. 

"thought we took a step backwards from Thursday," Borton said, referring to a 76-49 victory over Concordia (St. Paul) in the team's first exhibition.

"As a group, I thought we were a very undisciplined group out there, didn’t look like a team, that’s why I’m not even using the word team. We didn’t even look like a team out there. We have a lot of work to do before we open up on Saturday. I just felt like we took a couple of steps backwards from the other day.”

The Gophers play Washington State at noon Saturday in the Best Buy Classic.

Against the Mavericks, the Gophers committed 25 turnovers and went for almost 7 1/2 minutes without a field goal in the second half as a 55-33 lead dwindled to 60-51.

Ali Wilkinson, a 6-foot junior, scored 24 points and hadf 11 rebounds for MSU which shot only 31.3 percent.

The Gophers shot 47.3 percent, but were not much of a threat from behind the arc, making only two of seven attempts.

Junior guard Sari Noga of the Gophers often created havoc, good and bad.  Here was her lines: eight points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists. But she also had a team-high five turnovers, several times trying to force the ball inside.

Besides Noga, the other four starts all had at least three turnovers as the Gophers tried to push the pace with mixed results.

Kayla Hirt, a 6-2 redshirt freshman, continued to show signs she could help. Hirt missed her senior season at Bemidji with a torn ACL and then missed last season with the Gophers with a torn ACL on the other knee. She word black knee braces Sunday and had eight points and seven rebounds.

The Gophers outrebounded the Mavericks 41-28.

Etc.

* Katie Loberg, a 6-4 senior center who averaged 9.1 points last season, didn't play. She apparently is either sick or injured.

* Guard Leah Cotton, a senior who has often been a sparkplug off the bench in her career, made all three shots she took in 13 minutes of playing time. She had six points and three assists and tried to be aggressive (four fouls).

* The Gophers took a 22-7 lead and the rout was on ... Actually, no.

* Banham got the crowd roaring with an over-the-shoulder basket on a layup in the middle of the first half.

* Junior forward Kionna Kellogg of the Gophers  was shaken up in a collision 6:21 into the second half. She lay on the floor for a long time before walking off on her own power.

* Hirt, the Gopher with two surgically repaired knees, scored on a slick drive to the basket with 4:37 left to put the home team ahead 64-52. Means more when she does that. But she missed the free throw and the U scored only one more basket after that.

 

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