Women beat Charlotte in home opener

Rachel Banham led the Gophers with 20 points and scored 18 in the first half.

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham dribbles toward the basket on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Ichigo Takikawa, Daily File Photo

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham dribbles toward the basket on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Jack Satzinger

The Gophers (2-0) committed 17 team fouls in the first half, but that didn’t stop them in a 90-55 blowout win over Charlotte (1-2).

Minnesota post players Micaëlla Riché, Amanda Zahui B., Kayla Hirt and Jackie Johnson all had three fouls in the first half, which forced head coach Pam Borton to use a rare five-guard lineup.

“It was weird,” junior guard Rachel Banham said. “When coach subbed in a guard, I was like, ‘What’s happening?’ … It was definitely different, but I thought we adjusted pretty well.”

Banham’s presence was key throughout the game, and she finished with 20 points, scoring 18 in the first half. She shot 3-for-4 from behind the three-point arc in the game.

Banham was more than just a scorer for her team Wednesday night, though. She had two blocks and two steals in the first half.

“I’ve been working on [defense] a lot,” she said.

Senior guard Sari Noga said before the season that the coaches looked to her to be a steady presence this year. She was up to the task amid the early foul trouble.

Noga reeled in six rebounds for the Gophers to go along with nine points.

Zahui B. and Riché both had big nights despite playing limited minutes due to foul trouble.

Zahui B. finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Riché added 12 points and six boards.

“It was fun being out there,” Zahui B. said. “I learned a lot.”

Gophers sign recruits

Wednesday was National Signing Day, and Minnesota added five players.

Carlie Wagner is Minnesota’s highest-rated recruit, listed 54th in the nation according to espnW. Borton said Wagner is similar to Banham and former Gophers guard Lindsay
Whalen.

“Carlie is a prolific scorer,” Borton said. “Those two players that we’re comparing her to are exactly the same way.”

The Gophers also signed Rangie Bessard, Josie Buckingham, Grace Coughlin and Tory Jacobs.

Buckingham’s 6-foot-5-inch frame shows Minnesota’s attempt to get bigger as a team.

“We’ve got to have a little more size on our team,” Borton said. “I think we’ve got to keep getting bigger at that center position, and Josie gives us a little more depth.”