Banham, Zahui B. lead Gophers in win over Kansas

Amanda Zahui B. recorded the first triple-double of her career in the win.

Minnesota center Amanda Zahui B. looks to pass against Kansas at Williams Arena on Wednesday night.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota center Amanda Zahui B. looks to pass against Kansas at Williams Arena on Wednesday night.

Jack Satzinger

The Gophers spent the offseason focusing on defense, but it was hard to tell in the opening minutes of their 70-59 win over Kansas on Wednesday night.

That quickly changed on the back of redshirt freshman center Amanda Zahui B. She swatted away almost everything in sight and finished with a school-record 10 blocks.

“Whenever you have a center that can really plug up the lane defensively, it’s tough to score at the rim,” head coach Pam Borton said. “She’s hard to handle inside.”

Zahui B. came into the game as Minnesota’s leading scorer with 16.5 points per game but showed she can do more than just put the ball in the hoop.

While Zahui B. had the 10 blocks, she also added 11 points and 11 rebounds for the first triple-double of her career. She had three points, four rebounds and five blocks at the end of the first half and became even more active in the second half.

“I just decided to be more aggressive,” Zahui B. said. “It worked.”

Gophers junior guard Rachel Banham led all scorers with 26 points. Banham got hot toward the end of the first half, hitting a deep three-pointer to narrow Kansas’ lead.

“It put us down by just two points, [and] it gave us some momentum,” Borton said. “It gave us some confidence. I thought Rachel just made some big plays when she needed to. That’s her job.”

Micaëlla Riché had her most productive game of the season so far, scoring 20 points while going an efficient 8-for-12 from the field.

Riché’s breakout performance along with Zahui B.’s presence makes the Gophers’ frontline formidable.

“They have the potential to be two of the best post players in the Big Ten,” Borton said. “This is what we’ve envisioned our post play to look like. … I think the sky’s the limit for these two.”

The Gophers trailed early, but Shayne Mullaney’s consistent presence allowed them to fight back.

Mullaney, a sophomore guard, was very active on the defensive end in the game.

“I think that’s the first time I’ve ever played a full 40 minutes,” Mullaney said. “I just had to … keep myself pumped up with high energy.”

Mullaney chipped in with 11 points and five assists. She’s leading the Gophers with 16 assists through four games.

Mullaney said one of her roles is being a distributor, but she and the Gophers’ defensive adjustments forced Kansas to shoot just 25.7 percent from the field in the second half.

“I thought we did a great job of switching up defenses,” Borton said. “We gave them different looks [and] kept them really uncomfortable out there.”