Gophers rout SCSU in opening night exhibition victory

Freshman Rachel Banham thrived after struggling early in her first collegiate game.

Minnesota senior guard Kiara Buford goes in for a layup in Wednesday night's game against St. Cloud State.  Buford entered the season with 1,043 career points.

Satchell Mische-Richter

Minnesota senior guard Kiara Buford goes in for a layup in Wednesday night's game against St. Cloud State. Buford entered the season with 1,043 career points.

Adam Richard

The Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball team used its superior size and athletic ability to rout St. Cloud State 86-51 in its exhibition opener.

 âÄúWe had six players in double figures, a lot of offensive weapons and a lot of versatility out there. IâÄôm pleased with our effort tonight,âÄù head coach Pam Borton said.

Kiara Buford made the first shot of the night and followed that up with a 3-pointer on the next possession. The senior guard took on numerous roles, playing both distributor and scorer.

Buford finished with 14 points, three rebounds and six assists.

âÄúThere were times when we were clicking and you see glimpses of excellence,âÄù Buford said. âÄúOur younger girls did really well.âÄù

Freshman Rachel Banham received a large ovation during team announcements and showcased some of her talents early while also displaying her inexperience.

A sequence that summed up her early performance occurred midway through the first half. Banham was stripped of the ball but hustled down the floor to block the opposing layup. On the ensuing possession, she drove the length of the court for an unassisted layup.

SCSU switched to a zone defense with eight minutes remaining in the first half to which Banham had difficulties adjusting.

âÄúIt was an awkward zone,âÄù Banham said. âÄúFor a while I was really confused. We just had to break it down.âÄù

Minnesota led 38-23 at halftime.

In the second half, Banham used her speed to penetrate the zone and create for her teammates and herself. She elevated her play to the level that was expected out of MinnesotaâÄôs top recruit.

âÄúI was really nervous at first, but once I got out there and got in to the rhythm of everything, I was really excited,âÄù Banham said.

Banham started just 2-for-8 shooting, but finished the night with 11 points and six assists and four turnovers. She added three steals and two blocks.

The Gophers dominated the game with their size and quickness. They out-rebounded the Huskies 49-34, had 14 steals and continually beat the Huskies down the court in transition for high-percentage baskets.

Junior Leah Cotton ran at a higher speed than most others on the court. She had four steals and followed two of them with layups. Cotton finished with 11 points.

Sophomores Micaella Riche and Sari Noga provided Minnesota with rebounding and outside shooting. Riche had 11 points and seven rebounds, and Noga added 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.