Gophers beat OSU on senior night

Rachel Banham paced her squad to the win with 27 points Sunday.

Minnesota guard Sari Noga drives the ball against Ohio at Williams arena on Sunday.

Lisa Persson

Minnesota guard Sari Noga drives the ball against Ohio at Williams arena on Sunday.

Jack Satzinger

After Minnesota’s 74-57 win over Ohio State on Sunday, senior guard Sari Noga stood in front of an announced crowd of 3,403 and wept.

“I’m so appreciative of what this University has done for me,” she said.

It was Noga’s and fellow senior Micaëlla Riché’s final game at Williams Arena. And while things got emotional after the game, the Gophers were ruthless during it.

Minnesota (19-11, 8-8 Big Ten) snatched a double-digit lead toward the end of the first half that  Ohio State (15-17, 5-11) never overcame. 

Minnesota beat the Buckeyes to loose balls all night, won the rebound battle and drew 22 fouls in the contest.

“I don’t think anybody feels great at this point in the season,” Riché said. “It just depends on who’s going to get it done and who’s going to be tough about it.”

While the spotlight was on the seniors for most of the night, junior Rachel Banham reminded fans that the team will be just fine next year with her still on the roster.

Banham, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, was aggressive from the tip-off and rained 3-pointers to the tune of a game-high 27 points.

Her long-range game has been one of her specialties this season, and now the record books will reflect it. Banham set the program record for 3-pointers converted in a single season.

Banham, who grew up idolizing Lindsay Whalen and other Gophers women’s basketball legends, is becoming one herself.

“I’m definitely proud of myself,” Banham said.

While Banham led the team, as she normally does, she got some help from freshman Amanda Zahui B.

Zahui B. scored 14 points and hauled in 18 rebounds in the game.

Minnesota has now won its last two games and is gaining momentum heading into the Big Ten tournament.

 “I think we’re playing great basketball [right now],” Borton said. “I think this team has a lot of confidence and has faced a lot of adversity this year, and I think we’re ready to face anything at this point.”

Noga, who recorded nine points and two blocks Sunday, said the defense has improved of late.

“Every single one of these girls on this team wanted to win today because we knew how important it was for the rest of the season,” Noga said.

While Sunday’s win was emotional for the seniors, the team is still fighting for a postseason berth to put a stamp on their careers.

“You’ve got to have great leadership to get yourselves into the postseason and NCAA tournament,” Borton said. “We haven’t been to the NCAA tournament in the past few years, and now we can go this year, and [Riché and Noga] can leave a legacy.”