Dynamic scoring duo leads team

Together Rachel Banham and Carlie Wagner average 43.6 points a game.

Carlie Wagner manages to shoot in between two Maine defenders at Williams Arena on Nov. 20, 2015.

Sam Harper, Daily File Photo

Carlie Wagner manages to shoot in between two Maine defenders at Williams Arena on Nov. 20, 2015.

Kaitlin Merkel

Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings isn’t shy about the fact that redshirt senior guard Rachel Banham and sophomore guard Carlie Wagner are the team’s two keys on offense this season.
 
 
“It’s like Carlie and Rachel get their 20 almost every game, and then we just kind of wait and see who else steps up,” Stollings said after the team’s victory against Wisconsin on Saturday. “It’s more often than not a good night for the Gophers.”
 
 
Banham and Wagner have each scored at least 20 points in 10 games this season, and as of Jan. 24 they had the second-highest combined scoring average of any two teammates in the nation.
 
 
“It’s been great. We’re both scorers,” Banham said. “I think we work off each other. If I’m not hitting, then she goes down and hits a shot. That’s just kind of our mindset, and we know that’s something we need to do for our team to help them win.”
 
 
Banham was named to the Big Ten honor roll for the third consecutive week on Monday and leads the Gophers by averaging 24.1 points per game. She has the fourth highest average in the nation just over a year removed from anterior cruciate ligament surgery.
 
 
Wagner has been consistent as well in her role as the team’s secondary scorer and is averaging 19.5 points per game.
 
 
“It’s fun to have someone to play off of and just [to] be out there with someone who has such a scoring capability,” Wagner said of Banham. “I’ve never seen anybody who can score at will like she can. It’s just fun to be on the court at the same time experiencing it.”
 
 
Banham most recently led the Gophers in a comeback victory on Tuesday by scoring 27 points, with 25 coming in the second half alone. 
 
 
Stollings said after the victory that she had never seen Banham take over a game quite like the guard’s “phenomenal performance” on Tuesday night.
 
 
Wagner and Banham also lead the team in minutes, averaging 37.3 and 32.5 minutes per game, respectively.
 
 
Banham said playing for the majority of the game and scoring at high levels means the duo has to work around numerous opposing defensive schemes.
 
 
“[Teams just try] their best not to let us get the ball back,” Banham said. “Just a lot of different little things … nothing that I haven’t seen in the last four years and [nothing] that Carlie hasn’t seen. It’s really fun to try it and go against different defenses like that.”
 
 
Opponents haven’t found a way to stop Banham and Wagner from grabbing boards, either. The duo is averaging a combined 11.6 rebounds per game. 
 
 
Banham’s average of 6.3 rebounds per game is the highest for a guard in the Big Ten.
 
 
Despite the leadership from Banham and Wagner, Stollings said it’s important the rest of the team stays consistent as well. 
 
 
Minnesota’s offense ranks fourth in the Big Ten with an average of 80.7 points per game.
 
 
“Forty points a night from two players is a nice luxury to have,” Stollings said. “We just want to make sure … that the supporting cast around them continues to be solid.”
 
 
 Wagner added she doesn’t feel pressure to lead the Gophers because of her confidence in every shooter.
 
 
“It’s crazy how much scoring capability our team has,” Wagner said. “We have all the faith in the world in our shooters and our post players. So if I’m not shooting well, Rachel’s not shooting well or something is not just going our way, we can rely on them, and we know that they’re going to hit for us.”
 
Ben Gotz contributed to this report.