Banham tries to emulate Bryant on the hardwood

Rachel Banham scored 85 points in three games in Hawaii last week.

Junior guard Rachel Banham sets up a play against Loyola at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013.

Holly Peterson, Daily File Photo

Junior guard Rachel Banham sets up a play against Loyola at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013.

by Jack Satzinger

The Lakers haven’t played a home game in Minneapolis since moving to Los Angeles in 1960, but one of their biggest fans plays games in the Twin Cities area.

Rachel Banham, who’s been on a tear for the Gophers of late, put on a show similar to that of her favorite Lakers player over Thanksgiving break.

She scored 85 points in three games at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Showdown, upping her season average to 21.7 points per

“I decided to just go into Kobe mode,” Banham said. “I’m obsessed with Kobe [Bryant] and wanted to have that mindset — be relaxed and take over.”

Bryant has long been known as the “Black Mamba” for his killer instinct in the NBA, and that’s something Banham has tried to emulate.

That makes her the “Maroon Mamba” as the Gophers rack up wins.

“I saw a killer instinct in her that I haven’t seen before,” head coach Pam Borton said. “You either have a killer instinct, or you don’t. I saw a refuse-to-lose attitude.”

Still, one elite player isn’t always enough for a team to get the win. Bryant may have five championships with the Lakers, but none have come without the help of an elite big man.

Banham appears to have one this season in Amanda Zahui B. The redshirt freshman center scored 28 points and reeled in 19 rebounds in her first game at Minnesota — Shaquille O’Neal-like numbers.

Zahui B. has since followed that up with another dominant performance against Kansas, recording a triple-double. Zahui B. finished with 10 blocks — a school record.

Borton said the Gophers will have some mismatches to exploit when they face Miami on Thursday night.

“They’re very fast and very athletic,” Borton said. “They like to press and push in transition. … They play that way because they don’t have very much size.”

The Gophers have good size in large part because of the 6-foot-5-inch Zahui B. Borton said Minnesota will use that to its advantage.

The Gophers haven’t had a game since Sunday night but were plenty busy with games on back-to-back-to-back days before

“We played five games in eight days,” Borton said, noting her players made the necessary adjustments in Hawaii.

Since coming back to the mainland, Minnesota has had to make more adjustments. Banham said her sleeping schedule still isn’t back to normal and her legs were extremely sore after playing so hard.

Zahui B. said she was also fatigued from playing multiple games in a few days but said she’s determined to help lessen the load on Banham.

Still, the “Maroon Mamba” seems more than capable of doing the heavy lifting.

“I think I finally just let it go and didn’t care,” Banham said. “Sometimes I feel like I think about stuff too much. … I was just like, ‘Let’s go.’”