Gophers in search of consistency versus Iowa

Rachel Banham has led the team all year, but others must now step up.

by Jack Satzinger

When Minnesota played at Iowa a few weeks ago, Rachel Banham led all scorers by far with 32 points.

But it wasn’t enough for the Gophers to come out on top, and the Hawkeyes won 78-71.

“The last time we played them, I was able to score in all areas,” Banham said. “I have to continue to do that.”

She has all season, but she needs some help.

In a 30-point loss to Penn State last weekend, the Gophers tallied only 53 points, and Banham scored 25 of them. Only one other player on the team scored in double figures in that game.

It highlights a troubling trend for Minnesota. And if the Gophers (2-5 Big Ten) want to climb out of the conference cellar, they need more consistent production from their supporting cast.

Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said Banham has been by far the team’s most consistent player this season.

“We know what we’re going to get from Rachel every single day at practice,” Borton said. “I can’t say that for everybody else on the team. … We have really good games from people; then [they] don’t show up.”

A player who fits that description is Micaëlla Riché.

At the Iowa game Jan. 8, the senior forward-center recorded just one point and one rebound before fouling out. Then in a win against Wisconsin last week, she posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

She’s more than capable of being a big contributor for the Gophers, but hasn’t been able to do so day in and day out.

“We need a lot more consistency from Micaëlla,” Borton said.

Amanda Zahui B. has been Minnesota’s biggest weapon outside of Banham, but she’s had off-nights as well.

Zahui B. is still averaging a double-double in her freshman campaign but often gets into foul trouble — she’s fouled out of multiple big games this season.

“When Amanda fouls out, it’s a tough deal for us,” Borton said. “We’ve got to keep our players on the floor.”

Riché and Zahui B., as well as the rest of the team, will have a chance to step up against Iowa.

And they’ll need to keep stepping up down the stretch of the Big Ten schedule.

If the Gophers don’t start playing with more consistency across the board, they could miss the NCAA tournament for the fifth season in a row.

“We’ve got to have a sense of urgency right now,” Borton said.