Offense, offense, offense.
Oh, for a little defense.
Rachel Banham scored 52 points and broke the Big Ten career scoring record Sunday, but the Gophers women’s basketball team lost a crucial Big Ten game to No. 25 Michigan State 114-106 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.
The frenetic game before an announced crowd of 9,436 tilted mainly toward the Spartans, who trailed for only 57 seconds. When the Gophers (18-9, 10-6) drew close late and needed stops, they could not get them.
Michigan State (20-7, 11-5) made its final six shots before icing the victory at the free-throw line.
The Spartans scored 30 or more points in all but one quarter and had a school-record 34 assists on their 42 shots made. They finished just three points off the school’s single-game scoring record.
“It’s absolutely disappointing,” Gophers coach Marlene Stollings said during a postgame radio interview. “When you put up those many points, you want to come out victorious.”
The Gophers, tied for fourth place in the Big Ten, have lost two games in a row and must close out the regular season against two of the best teams in the country: No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Maryland. With an RPI ranking of 79 entering play Sunday, they are in desperate need of a quality victory to improve their NCAA tournament chances.
Aerial Powers led Michigan State with 40 points — a career high and one off the school record — and her supporting cast outplayed Banham’s. The starting backcourt of Tori Jankoska and Branndais Agee combined for 42 points, 21 assists and 15 rebounds. Jankoska’s 15 assists set a school mark.
As for Banham, she now owns the top two highest-scoring games in Big Ten women’s basketball history, and in some ways this game was more impressive than her NCAA record-tying 60-point outburst at unranked Northwestern two weeks ago. In that game, 18 of her points came in a pair of five-minute overtimes.
“She’s the real deal,” Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said. “She’s literally putting the team on her back. So I give her a lot of credit, but you know at the same time I think offensively they have two players and we have more than that, and I think over time we share the ball better.”
Banham’s every step was followed by the “Banham Cam” on BTN2Go, an app provided by the Big Ten Network. She shot 14-for-28 from the field, including 9-for-13 from three-point range, and made 15 of 16 free-throw attempts.
“It’s just too many points,” Banham said of the Gophers’ defensive effort. “Tonight we let them get way too many threes , way more than they ever usually have average wise. That’s not OK.”
Banham has 2,921 career points, two more than Kelly Mazzante (Penn State, 2001-04). She also broke her own school record for three-pointers in a season. She now has 97.
For the season, she is averaging 27.5 points. In her past five games she is averaging 41.6 points.
Banham’s half-court basket at the end of the first quarter seemed to buoy her team, which was trailing by 19 at the time, and by halftime the Spartans’ lead was down to two. But in the third quarter, after the Gophers took a 61-60 lead, Michigan State went on a 20-3 run.
The Gophers have lost five straight at the Breslin Center and have not won there since the 2008-09 season.