Minnesota heads to California for St. Mary’s Hilton tournament

Minnesota faces Quinnipiac on Friday night in Moraga, Calif.

Junior Leah Cotton makes a layup Sunday, November 20 against NDSU at Williams Arena.

Junior Leah Cotton makes a layup Sunday, November 20 against NDSU at Williams Arena.

by Adam Richard

The Gophers womenâÄôs basketball team travels to California this weekend for the St. MaryâÄôs Hilton Tournament. The Gophers will face Quinnipiac on Friday night to open the tournament and play in either the consolation or championship game Saturday.

Head coach Pam Borton said she feels good about the way the team is playing headed into the weekend tournament.

This will be the GophersâÄô second time playing a weekend tournament on the road. The first tournament, the WomenâÄôs Basketball Invitational Tip Off Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla., left them with a 1-2 record.

The team improved to 3-2 with home wins over Binghamton and North Dakota State on Nov. 19 and 20.

Borton said defense will be the key to success this weekend.

âÄúWhen you go on the road and have a good defense, you can play anywhere,âÄù Borton said.

Freshman point guard Rachel Banham will play in her second road tournament and the team hopes for her continued development.

âÄúEvery game I feel more comfortable,âÄù Banham said. âÄúI donâÄôt really have time to take my time and say âÄònext game.âÄôâÄù

She has been most effective in transition, running up and down the floor and using her speed.

âÄúThatâÄôs the way we want to play: Feed off our defense and score in transition,âÄù Borton said. âÄúWe want to run as much as possible.âÄù

Borton said that senior Kiara Buford and Banham have a high level of confidence that helps the team.

âÄúWhen they are playing well and playing intense, they are setting the tone for this team,âÄù Borton said. âÄúEverybody is confident because of them.âÄù

Buford has been the GophersâÄô most consistent player. She has scored in double figures in every game this season while filling the stat sheet in rebounds, assists and steals.

Minnesota improved its shooting percentage to 42 percent in both the Binghamton and North Dakota State games.

Now, Minnesota will try to improve its record to 5-2 before going on a tough stretch of games. The Gophers have an away game against Wake Forest and a home game against No. 1 Baylor next week.