Borton reaches 200 wins with Subway Classic title

Minnesota beat Ohio on Saturday and Maine on Sunday.

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham rushes the ball past Maines Danielle Walczak on Sunday at Williams Arena. The Gophers defeated the Maine Black Bears 77-60.

Emily Dunker

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham rushes the ball past Maine’s Danielle Walczak on Sunday at Williams Arena. The Gophers defeated the Maine Black Bears 77-60.

by Betsy Helfand

Washington State and Villanova played the Gophers tough in last weekend’s Best Buy Classic.

Ohio and Maine? Not so much.

The Gophers blew out both opponents this weekend en route to the Subway Classic Tournament title at Williams Arena.

Sunday’s victory over Maine in the championship game was Pam Borton’s 200th with Minnesota. She is the winningest coach in program history.

“I’ve had a lot of great players, and if you don’t have great players, you don’t win games,” Borton said Sunday.

The Gophers, who destroyed Ohio 85-40 on Saturday, beat Maine 77-60 for the tournament championship.

Forward Micaëlla Riché finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. Point guard Rachel Banham had 16 points and seven assists.

Riché made it look easy Sunday, scoring eight of Minnesota’s first 10 points and helping the Gophers take an early 23-6 lead.

The Black Bears fought back, though, and cut the deficit to eight at halftime.

Maine chipped away in the second half and cut the deficit to four at the 10-minute mark, but forward Kayla Hirt helped ignite a 12-0 run, and the Gophers coasted the rest of the way.

“I thought we started the game off extremely well, [and] I thought we finished the game extremely well,” Borton said.

Saturday’s game against Ohio was never close.

The Gophers pounced all over the Bobcats and led 60-16 at halftime.

Minnesota shot a scalding 71.9 percent in the first half, but Borton said there was “nothing positive” said in the locker room at halftime.

“It’s really hard when you’re up by 40 points to go out there and not be lackadaisical,” Borton said.

Borton said it was a great sign for her to see the team not let up in the second half.

“The intensity level stayed the same, the focus was the same and that’s really, really hard to do,” Borton said.

Junior guard Sari Noga said Borton gave the team a goal to hold Ohio to 40 points. She said having such a challenge helps make the team better when it has big leads.

Banham led the Gophers with 18 points Saturday. She made four three-pointers and finished 7-for-9 from the floor. Noga had 14 points.

Minnesota harassed Bobcats ball-handlers, forced 20 turnovers and capitalized. In the first half, it turned 14 Ohio turnovers into 27 points.

The Gophers held Ohio to 21.8 percent shooting, and Borton said she was happy with the team’s defensive performance.

Senior Katie Loberg, who missed the past few weeks after having her knee scoped, returned Saturday. She had 12 points and five rebounds in 13 minutes and said she felt like she hadn’t missed a beat.

“It feels really good to get started on a positive note. It definitely gives me a lot of confidence,” Loberg said. “I took a couple shots that I wasn’t sure were going to go in, and they just kind of fell for me.”

Minnesota will look to regroup before heading to Cancun, Mexico for the Cancun Challenge next weekend.

The Gophers will play three games in three days, which Banham said she is looking forward to.

“Everyone else is starting to show consistency,” she said. “I think the more games we play we will keep being able to show consistency and get better.”