Stollings begins Gophers coaching career with a victory

Guard Rachel Banham scored her 2,000th point as Minnesota defeated Southeastern Louisiana.

Senior Rachel Banham prepares to shoot at Williams Arena on Friday evening. Banham scored her 2,000th point Friday evening, becoming the fourth Gopher in program history to score 2,000 career points at the University of Minnesota.

Elizabeth Brumley

Senior Rachel Banham prepares to shoot at Williams Arena on Friday evening. Banham scored her 2,000th point Friday evening, becoming the fourth Gopher in program history to score 2,000 career points at the University of Minnesota.

Matt Greenstein

On a cold but momentous night in which the Gophers defeated Southeastern Louisiana 109-60, Minnesota stuck to its up-tempo strategy and, in the process, won Marlene Stollings’ introductory game as head coach.

Since Stollings was hired, questions surrounding her fast-paced scheme have been rampant. Minnesota put all of those questions to rest Friday.

Stollings pulled out a small, three-guard lineup including freshman Carlie Wagner, senior Rachel Banham and junior Shayne Mullaney.

Senior forward Shae Kelley, an Old Dominion transfer, also started and played 18 minutes. She tied for the team high with 21 points while adding 10 rebounds.

The starting lineup didn’t include 6-foot-5-inch redshirt sophomore Amanda Zahui B., whom Stollings said was recovering from an injury.

Zahui B. played 22 meaningful minutes and made her presence known, finishing with 20 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.

With their balanced scoring attack, the Gophers were able to score more than 100 points for the first time in 12 years.

Stollings said the feat was an exciting one. Perhaps more intriguing about Stollings’ new system, though, is the tenacity of the defense.

She said the Gophers have multiple different looks they like to give their opponent in order to keep them guessing.

“We were pleased with the pace. … We’re working on multiple things to try to keep the offense chaotic and not let [opponents] get into such a rhythm,” Stollings said.

Banham said the team shares a strong connection, which helped with its success.

“I think that we all played extremely well. Everyone brought it and scored in different ways. We all played our role,” Banham said.

Redshirt junior Kayla Hirt was one of the players who played her role well. Stollings has called Hirt the “X factor,” and Hirt said she’s “here to do the little things.”

Hirt said she felt comfortable in the fast-paced system.

“A lot of my points come from the teammates I have around me. It opens up opportunities for me to score the ball. A lot of my points came in transition, so it was just pushing the ball and getting easy baskets,” Hirt said.

She did more than the little things Friday, tying for the game lead in points with 21 and grabbing seven rebounds.

Banham, the Big Ten’s leading scorer last season at 22.1 points per game, finished the game with 18 points while reaching a career milestone in the
process.

With 10:05 left in the first half, Banham drove into the lane and scored on a layup, marking her 2,000th point during her Minnesota career.

The last person to achieve the feat was Lindsay Whalen in 2004, who tops Minnesota’s career scoring list.

Stollings said the team’s ability to have multiple scorers is a nice way to have a balanced offense.

“We have multiple weapons in different young ladies that can step up for us in multiple positions. It’s nice to have that luxury,” Stollings said.

Stollings said the victory was good for the team, but Minnesota needs to keep a level head.

“We’ll have the 24-hour rule where we’ll celebrate any victory and sulk over any loss, and then we’re on to the next one. This is just the beginning for us. We certainly have a lot of areas to improve upon as well,” Stollings said. “We have a long way to go, and it’s early. We’re going to get right back at after it on Monday at practice.”