Banham lights it up, Minnesota falls to MSU

The Gophers are still in search of a signature win to boost their résumé.

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham pushes through Illinois defense Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Daily File Photo, Amanda Snyder

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham pushes through Illinois’ defense Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, at Williams Arena.

by Jack Satzinger

The Gophers looked lost in a 25-point loss to Michigan State last month. They fought hard against the same Spartans team Monday night, but there are no moral victories at this point in the season.

Minnesota (17-11, 6-8) fell 75-61 to Michigan State (19-8, 11-3) on Monday night after a slow start.

“I thought it was a much better game,” head coach Pam Borton said. “Our kids just kept chipping away.”

That was the problem — the Gophers had to chip away from the get-go.

Minnesota stuck around the entire contest, but the team came out flat and trailed by as many as 14 points in the game’s first 10 minutes.

While watching film before the game, Borton identified one of Michigan State’s weaknesses as attacking the zone. So the Gophers rolled out a zone defense to start the game, and they got rolled over.

“They were very prepared to play against our zone, and I thought they hit some great shots,” Borton said. “I wasn’t expecting them to be red-hot in the first half, and we dug ourselves into a little hole that we were trying to climb out of the whole game.”

Gophers star junior guard Rachel Banham did everything she could to pull the Gophers out.

The Maroon Mamba posted 31 points in the loss and embraced her idol Kobe Bryant’s mentality all game. It still wasn’t overcome the deficit.

“That’s usually my mindset – Kobe mode,” Banham said after the loss.

She led all scorers in the game, but she attempted 30 shots and shot only 37-percent from the floor.

“Rachel taking 30 shots is a little more than what we really want, but it’s tough getting offense when we don’t have a post presence inside,” Borton said.

The Gophers lacked that inside presence because freshman center Amanda Zahui B. had trouble getting involved during the first half. She ratcheted up her effort in the second stanza to finish with nine points and 10 rebounds.

Borton said it wasn’t enough.

“She’s playing against experienced kids, and she’s had a tendency on the road to disappear in the first half and show up in the second half,” Borton said. “She just has to play tougher.”

Borton said Zahui B. is still getting used to the physicality of the Big Ten. And from a physical standpoint, few matchups in the conference are tougher than Spartans center Madison Williams.

At 6 feet 5 inches, Zahui B. rarely runs into opponents that are taller than her. But Monday night she did, succumbing to the 6-foot-7-inch Michigan State center.

In the game only six Gophers scored — none in double figures, aside from Banham.

“That’s usually not something I’d do, but I got decent looks and was being aggressive,” Banham said of her excessive shot attempts. “That was just kind of the best thing we were going with. We obviously don’t need me to do that. We need points from other people.”