Gophers win shootout against Wildcats

Rachel Banham and Carlie Wagner had 55 combined points at home Wednesday.

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham looks up court while shielding the ball from Northwestern guard Ashley Deary on Wednesday at Williams Arena where the Gophers won 95-92.

Sam Harper

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham looks up court while shielding the ball from Northwestern guard Ashley Deary on Wednesday at Williams Arena where the Gophers won 95-92.

Kaitlin Merkel

Gophers redshirt senior guard Rachel Banham scored 32 points to lead Minnesota to a late 95-92 victory over Northwestern University on Wednesday

 

 night at Williams Arena.

 
 
The two teams entered the fourth quarter tied 74-74, and there were three more tie scores in the game before the Gophers took a three-point lead with just more than a minute to play.
 
 
Sophomore guard Carlie Wagner recorded a steal, and three different Minnesota players hit seven free throws to keep the game out of reach for the Wildcats at the end.
 
 
“Our team really came together in that last minute. I’ve never seen us get so amped,” Wagner said. “We really wanted that win.”
 
 
It was the second close consecutive conference victory at home for Minnesota (12-6, 4-3 Big Ten), which beat Indiana late by just two pointson Sunday.
 
 
“We like to be hitting our stride here in January into February,” Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings said, “We have high expectations and goals of going to the NCAA tournament, and you have to win Big Ten games to go, and you’ve got to win at home, so I’m very proud of them for that.”
 
 
Banham, who was named to the Big Ten player of the week honor roll for the second consecutive week on Monday, scored 15 points in the first quarter alone to give the
Gophers a three-point lead at the end of the frame.
 
 
“With someone like Rachel, I think you’re seeing her really hit her stride here, and her offensive prowess here, the last couple of games, [and] how quickly she can put up a lot of points,” Stollings said.
 
 
Banham’s game-high 32 points included six three-pointers, while Wagner added 23 points. 
 
 
Wednesday marked the 16th and 10th games where Banham and Wagner have scored at least 20 points, respectively, through 18 games so far this season.
Minnesota extended their lead in the second by outscoring the Wildcats 26-18 to enter halftime with an 11-point lead.
 
 
The Wildcats erased the deficit and briefly took the lead in the third quarter, outscoring Minnesota 33-22 to tie the game entering the fourth. For the second game in a row though, the Gophers were able to pull ahead late in the game.
 
 
Minnesota shot 46.7 percent from the floor in the victory and 52.4 percent on 21 three-point attempts.
 
 
Wagner said the Gophers also capitalized on rebounds when necessary despite being outsized in the frontcourt. 
 
 
The Wildcats outrebounded Minnesota 39-38 in the game.
 
 
Gophers sophomore guard Allina Starr led the team with nine rebounds in her seventh start for Minnesota.
 
 
“I thought it just came down to rebounding,” Wagner said. “We were getting rebounds at important times of the game, and we kept our poise in parts when they were really putting ball pressure onto us.”