Gophers blasted by Penn State on road

Rachel Banham played well and led the team in points.

Jack Satzinger

The Gophers’ weekend started off right with a double-digit win over rival Wisconsin on Thursday night.

It ended with a 30-point loss to Penn State a few days later.

That win over the Badgers snapped a two-game losing streak and set the stage for the Gophers to gain momentum heading into the meat of the Big Ten season.

Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said she hoped that win could be “a launching pad” for the rest of the season.

That’s not what happened Sunday as the Gophers (13-8, 2-5 Big Ten) fell 83-53 at No. 13 Penn State (15-4, 6-1 Big Ten).

Rachel Banham had a subpar shooting performance for the second-straight game but still managed to lead the team in scoring.

Banham had 25 points Sunday but shot only 40 percent in the game. She said after the game against Wisconsin that it was frustrating to miss some shots she usually makes.

Amanda Zahui B. was a big contributor for Minnesota on Sunday, tallying 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Zahui B. is fourth in the Big Ten in rebounding and performed well against a big Penn State frontcourt.

It still wasn’t enough. 

“They’re huge,” Borton said of Penn State. “They’re bigger than we are.”

Kayla Hirt chipped in with eight points for the Gophers, but points were hard to come by Sunday as the rest of the team combined for only four points.

Borton said Thursday some players watch Banham play too much instead of being assertive.

It’s not hard to step back and just watch her play. Banham is one of the top players in the nation and leads the Big Ten in scoring.

Penn State’s Maggie Lucas is second in the conference, which set the stage for the conference’s top scorers to go head-to-head Sunday.

Lucas matched Banham’s 25 points but needed only 15 attempts to get to that plateau.

Lucas also leads the nation in free-throw percentage and found ways to get to the line Sunday.

“You can’t send her to the foul line,” Borton said. “She’s going to make shots.”

Lucas told reporters after the game that her teammates did a great job of contesting all of Banham’s shots.

While two of the nation’s top players in Banham and Lucas shared the court Sunday, Lucas said it wasn’t the main focus of the game.

“It was a focus of the team to know where she was, she’s that great of a player,” Lucas told reporters after the game, “but my focus in this game was nothing about a matchup between me and her.”