The Gophers women's basketball team might still have a losing record in conference play, but at least it can hang its hat on its recent performances at home.
The Gophers knocked off a nationally ranked opponent at Williams Arena for the second time in three games, grinding out a 64-58 victory over No. 16 Nebraska on Monday night.
Rachel Banham's 21 points and Kiara Buford's 16 paced the Gophers (13-14, 5-8 Big Ten), who started the game down 11-3, but rebounding was the big key, coach Pam Borton said.
With the score tied and a minute to play, Kionna Kellogg grabbed a big offensive board and scored to give the Gophers a 60-58 lead. The defense would hold Nebraska for another possession, then senior Brianna Mastey garnered her own rebound with 15 seconds left. The Cornhuskers (19-5, 8-4) fouled Banham, who made both free throws to extend the lead to 62-58 and seal the upset before an announced 3,247.
"Those few plays are the difference for us in the end of those games," said Buford, who was 6-for-9 from the floor, including 2-for-2 from three-point range.
In their previous two home games, the Gophers beat then-No. 9 Ohio State 76-65 on Jan. 29 and had a second-half lead against then-No. 19 Penn State before losing 68-65. That was the second game of a three-game losing streak that ended Monday.
Borton said some of the team's struggles away from home can be solved with better play and leadership from veterans, something the Gophers got Monday.
"I think that's been an issue for us on the road," Borton said. "I think for us to be successful on the road, you need your veterans to step up and play well."
Making a rare start, Mastey posted nine points and 11 rebounds, a weak area for the team in recent weeks. With senior Jackie Voigt still out because of concussion-like symptoms after failing to pass the required NCAA tests, leadership and rebounding from Mastey was needed. Borton said she believed the decision was warranted after the team got off to a slow start in its loss to Iowa on Thursday.
"I just felt like we needed to make a change," Borton said of starting Mastey. "I think Bri brings us rebounding and I think that's been something we needed to get back to in the last five games."
The Gophers outrebounded Nebraska 42-31. But it was the Gophers' game to lose after beginning the second half with a 13-0 run for a comfy 40-24 lead.
Nebraska's high-scoring duo of Jordan Hooper and Lindsey Moore combined for only nine points in the first half. Moore finished with 12 points and Hooper hit all four of her three-pointers on her way to a 20-point night to inch Nebraska back into the game. The Huskers eventually tied the score on multiple occasions, including at the 3:17 mark, but the Gophers never trailed in the second half.