Micaella Riche, Sari Noga and Rachel Banham led the Gophers past the Big Ten conference leader and No. 7 team in the country.
Following up the men's big upset win over No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday, the Gophers women showed what they're capable of on Thursday night, as they upset No. 7 Penn State 89-81 at Williams Arena behind a slew of solid performances.
It wasn't just the Rachel Banham Show, either, as a full cast of characters came to play with Micaella Riche scoring a team-high 24 points and Sari Noga putting on a sharpshooting show to help the Gophers pull off their biggest win of the year. Did anybody rush the floor?
"We had our little mini-rush session with old people and their walkers, so that was good," Riche said.
Noga set career highs in both points, with 19, and three-pointers with a 6-for-7 effort while guarding one of the best players in the Big Ten, Maggie Lucas. Banham finished with 23 points -- 17 of which came in the second half -- and seven assists.
Penn State had clinched a share of the Big Ten title with a win over Michigan on Sunday and could have claimed it outright with a win against the Gophers, but Minnesota beat the Nittany Lions for the eighth time in the past nine outings at Williams Arena.
"When everybody shows up and does what they can do, we have a great basketball team," coach Pam Borton said.
Shayne Mullaney registered 10 points and five assists and Kionna Kellogg added eight points. Minnesota, the conference's best shooting team, hit 66.7 percent on Thursday night.
Penn State made several pushes but never held a lead in the game. The Nittany Lions crept within six at one point in the second half, but Banham came up with a huge steal, ran down the court and pulled off another of her ridiculous shots -- while drawing a foul -- to put the Gophers up 10 with 1:31 left.
It was Banham's 61st game of 10 points or more, moving to fourth all-time in Gophers history for the benchmark.
Despite losing the turnover battle 23-13, Minnesota played stronger and more aggressively in the post, but more important, the Gophers made their shots. Minnesota shot 68.4 percent in the first half while outrebounding Penn State 16-9.
Noga started the Gophers on the right foot with a three-pointer to open the scoring. Penn State's Dara Taylor tied the score 9-9 with a three-pointer, but Mullaney found Noga all alone to drain her second three of the game to regain the lead.
Minnesota was leading by seven points midway through the first half -- and Banham had only contributed two to the party. The Big Ten scoring leader struggled out of the gate, but her teammates picked up the slack until she turned it on.
Noga kept the hot hand with a three to extend the lead to 33-26 and finished the first 20 minutes 3-for-3 from behind the arc. "I was on and I felt it," Noga said. "So when I had my open opportunities I took the shot and they were going in for me."
Penn State made a late charge and trailed just 37-36 at the half. But the Gophers finished strong, and they hope it will spark them as they try to get into a groove heading into postseason.
"It gets tough when you go on losing streaks," Riche said. "But this could be the beginning of a big one."
|Utah Valley U||64|
|(5) South Carolina||67|
|(14) NC State||79|
|(11) Penn State||82|
|(2) Notre Dame||83|
|(19) Michigan State||61|
|(13) North Carolina||73||FINAL|
|(15) Texas A&M||86|
|San Diego State||46||FINAL|
|San Jose St||80||FINAL|