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Gophers open at home with Binghamton in Subway Classic

Minnesota will play in the final Sunday if it wins.
Gophers open at home with Binghamton in Subway Classic
Image by Satchell Mische-Richter, Daily File Photo

The Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball team will play its first regular season home game this weekend against Binghamton University in the Subway Classic tournament.

The winner of SaturdayâÄôs game will play at 3 p.m. Sunday at Williams Arena.

Head coach Pam Borton said all of her players will be healthy and available for SaturdayâÄôs game.

The Gophers played to a 1-2 record in last weekâÄôs opening WBI Tipoff in Daytona Beach, Fla. Minnesota won its opener against Arkansas on Friday, but dropped the next two games over the weekend.

âÄúThis is one of the best opening-season tournaments you can play in,âÄù Borton said of the WBI Tipoff. âÄúWe learned a lot of positive things about our team. Our work ethic and the intensity level that we carried for 40 minutes for three days in a row was unbelievable.âÄù

Binghamton currently has a 2-0 record and had a 19-12 record last season. It posted good defensive numbers in 2010-11, including a 35.1 opposing field-goal percentage, which ranked 15th in the nation.

That may be a tough matchup given the Gophers shot only 34.7 percent over their first three games, including 26.8 percent against South Florida.

âÄúOur shooting percentages have got to be better in a lot of areas,âÄù Borton said. âÄúIn the post, 3-point shooting percentage, our free throw shooting percentage.âÄù

Senior combo guard Kiara Buford led the Gophers in their first three games and is expected to be an on-court leader for Minnesota this season. She will be relaying information specifically to freshman point guard Rachel Banham.

âÄúI tried to talk to [Banham] the whole time,âÄù Buford said. âÄúYou learn as you progress. ItâÄôs something IâÄôve had to learn, is how to score with contact, draw fouls, do other things when shots arenâÄôt falling.âÄù

Banham started the weekend well, shooting 6-for-14 for 15 points Friday, but only shot 6-for-31 the rest of the weekend.

âÄúMy legs were very worn out by the end,âÄù Banham said. âÄúBut with my shooting âÄî I just need to keep working on my shot, keep getting in the gym, getting extra shots up to make it more consistent.âÄù

BanhamâÄôs ball handling ability was on display in the teamâÄôs first three games. Borton said she was impressed by BanhamâÄôs lack of turnovers and ability to take care of the ball.

âÄúI was very, very proud of Rachel,âÄù Borton said. âÄúSheâÄôs playing three tougher games than any freshman in the country. She doesnâÄôt get a chance to get her feet wet. I think she did outstanding, and I think she learned a lot about herself.âÄù

Junior forward Katie Loberg  led the team with 21 rebounds over the first three games, but shot only 7-for-21 on the weekend.

Banham will play her first regular season game in front of a hometown crowd this weekend, and Borton said Banham isnâÄôt the only one who is glad to be back in Minneapolis.

âÄúThis is a comfort zone for them. To be able to play in the Barn âÄî in front of their family and friends âÄî should be exciting,âÄù Borton said.

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