DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. - The Gophers women's basketball used high-intensity play on both ends of the floor to post a 68-60 victory over Arkansas in its season-opener Friday afternoon in the WBI Tip Off Classic.
"I've been telling my players that there is a certain way we need to play to win basketball games, and we did that today," coach Pam Borton said. "It has been a couple years since I've seen us play this tough on the court. We were on the floor getting after loose balls, we were rebounding the ball well and getting to the free throw line. We played Minnesota basketball today."
Freshman guard Rachel Banham, a former Lakeville North star, dazzled in her collegiate debut, leading the Gophers with 15 points, while adding four assists, two steals and three rebounds. Senior Kiara Buford also scored in double-figures against the Razorbacks (0-1), tallying all 14 of her points in the second half. The guard was 5-for-8 from the free-throw line down the stretch to seal the victory.
Kionna Kellogg had a team-best six steals and four rebounds, and junior Katie Loberg added 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Gophers shot 78.9 percent (15-for-19) from the free throw line, which included a perfect 6-for-6 showing in the opening half. They hit 44 percent of their shots from the field (26-for-59) while holding the Razorbacks to 40 percent (21 of 52). Minnesota and Arkansas were even on the boards, with each team grabbing 36 rebounds, but the Gophers nabbed 14 steals and forced 24 turnovers.
The Gophers headed into halftime with a 27-23 lead, with Banham scoring nine of the team's last 15 points in the half.
Minnesota continued to lead through the first part of the second half, but the Razorbacks took their first lead, 44-42, with 10 minutes to play. A layup by Buford evened the score and a pair of made free throws by Loberg gave the lead back to the Gophers. Arkansas tied the score once more before an 11-0 run put the game out of reach.