Gophers squander chance at signature win, fall to Purdue 63-42

by Jack Satzinger

The Gophers came into Thursday night’s game leading the Big Ten in field goal percentage. You wouldn’t have known it from watching their 63-42 loss to No. 21 Purdue.

Minnesota (17-10, 6-7 Big Ten) shot just 27-percent from the field in a contest that snapped its four game winning streak.

“Our lack of offensive production really hurt us tonight,” Gophers head coach Pam Borton said.

Rachel Banham was uncharacteristically cold, making just one of 17 field goal attempts. Purdue (19-7, 9-5 Big Ten) came into the game with a well thought out plan to lock down the Big Ten’s leading scorer.

Boilermakers guard Dee Dee Williams said that strategy centered on forcing Banham to use her left hand.

“She didn’t really look too comfortable going left. That was basically all I did,” Williams said.

Minnesota rode Banham during their winning streak, with her playing 159 of a 160 possible minutes over the four game stretch. Banham has consistently said she’s not fatigued playing big minutes, but she looked gassed at times in the loss.

“It’s a grind, it’s the end of the Big Ten season,” Borton said. “They should be tired out there, they should be gassed. They’re not coming out of the game at all.”

They're not coming out of the game at all because the Gophers only have seven healthy players.

Shayne Mullaney hasn’t played for Minnesota this month due to concussion-like symptoms. Stabresa McDaniel didn’t play Thursday either due to concussion-like symptoms and Jackie Johnson is out for the season with a torn ACL. 

“I think it showed tonight,” Borton said of her short bench.

Mullaney is one of the Gophers’ top penetrators and Sari Noga has tried to compensate for her absence. She’s known as a spot up shooter, but Noga has been driving to the basket more frequently of late.

“[Mullaney] was a penetrator for us and I think that we need someone else to do that,” Noga, who led the Gophers with 15 points, said. “I’ve just been seeing the lane more and taking it to the rack.”

Minnesota could have left Williams Arena on Thursday night with a signature win to cement their NCAA Tournament slot. Instead, they’ll leave with another chance against a ranked Michigan State team Monday night.

“We’ve got a couple of really tough games here back to back,” Borton said.