Gophers can’t finish Purdue as Banham struggles in second half

Rachel Banham scored four points on 2-for-12 shooting in the second half of Minnesota’s loss Sunday.

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham looks to pass against Purdue on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Image by Ichigo Takikawa

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham looks to pass against Purdue on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, at Williams Arena.

by Samuel Gordon

Again, Minnesota’s women’s basketball team found itself locked in a tight game late against a quality opponent.

Again, the Gophers couldn’t get it done.

Minnesota fell to No. 22 Purdue 75-63 in a Sunday matinee at Williams Arena.

Days after an emotional victory at Ohio State, the Gophers (5-9 Big Ten) squandered a four-point halftime lead to the Boilermakers, who had dropped four of five games before Sunday.

“We put ourselves in a position to win with about three- and-a-half minutes to go,” Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. “Our inability to get stops and rebounds down the stretch really affected us.”

Sophomore guard Rachel Banham scored 17 of her team-high 21 points in the first half. She shot 2-for-12 in the second half.

Minnesota rode Banham’s hot hand to a 40-36 halftime lead. She shot 6-for-8 in the first half and made a couple of off-balance three-pointers, including a shot seconds before the first-half buzzer sounded.

As a team, the Gophers shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half.

But the Boilermakers adjusted at halftime and began double-teaming Banham on pick-and-rolls and cutting off dribble-penetration.

“I wasn’t able to hit shots. That forced other people to step up,” said Banham, whose buzzer-beater lifted the Gophers to a 57-56 victory over Ohio State on Thursday.

“It was definitely much harder.”

Purdue seized a 51-50 lead six minutes into the second half and rode it all the way to the finish.

With Banham struggling, the Gophers turned to junior post player Micaëlla Riché on offense.

Riché had no problem establishing a deep post position, but she struggled to finish around the basket.

She finished the game with 13 points on 6-for-18 shooting.

“I think Micaëlla was playing a little too fast,” Borton said. “Sometimes she’s getting the ball and going off of one foot or fading away instead of taking it to the rim.”

Banham scored her first points of the second half on a layup with 11:19 left.

But Purdue answered that basket and almost every other Gophers basket the rest of the way.

Riché cut the deficit to two on a layup with 3:30 left, but the Boilermakers pushed their lead back to four with another bucket.

The Gophers turned the ball over on their next possession, and Purdue scored back-to-back baskets to seal the victory.

Boilermakers guard Courtney Moses scored 23 points, and guard KK Houser added 14 points and 7 assists.

Gophers juniors Sari Noga and Kionna Kellogg scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Minnesota reserves combined for four points, a disappointing total to Borton.

“That’s what you really need in a game like this,” Borton said, “people off the bench stepping up and giving you some type of production.”