The students might have been on break, but the Gophers women's basketball team was all business Friday night at Williams Arena, doubling up on Northern Iowa 86-43.
Rachel Banham scored a team-high 26 points. Shayne Mullaney, Sari Noga and Kayla Hirt also scored in double figures.
It may have been planned as a tune-up game, but the Gophers didn't just go through the motions. Minnesota scored 50 points in the first half while giving up a measly 16 to the visitors.
"That just fuels everybody and gives everybody else confidence," coach Pam Borton said.
The Gophers hadn't played a game in nearly two weeks, but it didn't stop them from getting off to a blazing start. Minnesota dominated from the opening tip, with a clean possession and a three-pointer by Banham. Baskets by Mullaney and Kionna Kellogg put the Gophers up 13-3 in the first five minutes.
Banham added to her hot start with a steal and easy basket along with a block and an assist to Noga, who dropped a three-pointer of her own. Noga returned the favor with a beautiful feed to Banham in the post that put Minnesota up 29-14. The Lakeville North grad sunk her third three-pointer and added another steal and layup before Northern Iowa could get settled in.
The Gophers began the game making their first eight shots and built a commanding lead by the half, largely the work of Banham, who had 21 points. She shot 9-for-11 from the floor while hitting three of four three-point shots before returning to earth in the second half. Minnesota scored 21 points off 14 turnovers in the first half.
The Panthers scored only two points off eight Gophers turnovers.
Minnesota cooled off in the second half but cruised to 10-3 on the season. Mullaney followed up a career-high 18 points against Robert Morris with 17 points, eight rebounds and just one turnover on Friday night.
"Game by game I'm starting to get more comfortable," Mullaney said. "As my minutes have increased and as I'm doing better and everything, I think that I've gained more confidence."
Noga had 12 points and Hirt registered her first career double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. The redshirt freshman used the past two weeks of practice to shore up her overall game.
"Every game I feel like I'm adapting more and more ... " Hirt said. "I like to rebound. That's another big part of my game."
The Gophers' field-goal percentage continued to rise. They entered the game at 47 percent and shot 52.5 percent against Northern Iowa, whom they have now beaten in nine consecutive meetings.
The Panthers shot just 25 percent in the first half and 23.9 percent in the game. Minnesota committed 14 turnovers and outrebounded Northern Iowa 44-28.