Women’s basketball wins regular season opener

Minnesota defeated Arkansas 68-60 in the first game of the WBI Tip-Off Classic.

Charlie Armitz

The Rachel Banham era is underway for the Gophers women’s basketball program — and so far, it looks promising.

After playing well in two exhibition games, Banham led Minnesota to a 68-60 win over Arkansas in 2011-12 regular season opener, which is also the Gophers’ first of three games at the Women’s Basketball Invitational Tip-Off Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The freshman point guard had 15 points, four assists and two turnovers in 31 minutes. She shot 6-for-14 in the win.

Minnesota had 18 turnovers as a team, but Arkansas had 24. Gophers forward Kionna Kellogg had six steals, and Banham and junior guard Leah Cotton each added two.

The Gophers took a 29-23 lead into the intermission and only briefly trailed in the second half. Down 44-42, they went on a 15-2 run to take an 11-point lead that they would not relinquish.

Senior Kiara Buford added 13 points and six rebounds, and junior forward Katie Loberg had 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

Minnesota next plays No. 13 Florida State on Saturday at 1 p.m.