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Bailey picking up boards

The senior guard was named the Big Ten Co-Player of the Week Monday.
Junior guard Mikayla Bailey dribbles the ball against Penn State at Williams Arena on Jan. 28.
Image by Holly Peterson, Daily File Photo
Junior guard Mikayla Bailey dribbles the ball against Penn State at Williams Arena on Jan. 28.
Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings challenged her regular guards before the season to record six-plus rebounds per game to make up for the loss of center Amanda Zahui B., who led the team in rebounding last year.
 
Senior guard Mikayla Bailey answered with a team-leading 13 rebounds Friday as the Gophers won their season opener 98-54 over Wofford.
 
“I was super excited from the start of the game; I was ready to go,” Bailey said. “Coach stresses that so much, to get rebounds. I just did what I could … and got 13, so hopefully I can keep doing that.”
 
Stollings said she wants to see that level of rebounding from her guards every night.
 
“We wouldn’t mind having a big night from one of our guards each night, in terms of a double-digit rebounding night,” Stollings said. “They’re capable; they’re very active. It’s a huge emphasis of ours daily, so we just want that to continue; it’ll be real important to our success this year.”
 
Bailey also led the team in points and set a career-high with 26, helped by six three-pointers, and tied her career high with three steals. She was named the Big Ten Co-Player of the week Monday for her efforts.
 
“It was really cool to hear that. It’s just an honor,” Bailey said. “My shots were falling, and [my teammates] were finding me. … I’m hoping that I can continue to play consistently.”
 
Gophers redshirt senior guard Rachel Banham said Bailey’s double-double performance to start the season set the tone for the rest of the team’s guards.
 
“Thirteen boards is huge for any guard; it was great that she did that. I think a lot of us other guards need to step up and do that as well,” Banham said. “I think it gave the other guards a lot of confidence that we can do it as well. … We’ve got to be ready for those games when we’re not hitting all of those shots and be able to attack the rim as well.”
 
Bailey was one of four guards that started for the Gophers on Friday, part of a new lineup the team is using to compensate for the loss of Zahui B. and the team’s other main frontcourt player from last year, Shae Kelley.
 
“I really like playing a four-guard lineup. All of the four guards, we like to shoot the ball, and we play quicker,” Bailey said. “It’s really fun to find each other, and we can all shoot, so it was just really fun to change things up.”
 
The lineup worked in the Gophers’ first game on Friday, as the team set a program record of 16 three-pointers in a single game. The smaller lineup also still rebounded well, with 62 compared to Wofford’s 31.
 
“They’re capable shooters — and not every night are you on, but more often than not they’re good enough that they’re going to be on or at least most of them will be on,” Stollings said. “We’re going to play to our strengths, and our strengths are certainly the ability to score from the outside.”
 
Stollings added that it was nice to see Bailey have a strong start to her senior year, especially after the Maple Grove native missed 17 total games due to illness in her freshman and sophomore seasons.
 
“It’s the first time she has received the [Big Ten player of the week] honor in her career,” Stollings said. “Last year was really almost like a freshman year for her, so to come in
and to be able to play so well in the first night and lead us in scoring and rebounding, and then for the Big Ten to honor her, was just a very nice accomplishment.”
 
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