Senior class leaving long shadow

The Gophers will honor their three graduating guards Wednesday night.

Minnesota guard Mikayla Bailey handles the ball during the second quarter at Williams Arena on Monday, Feb. 15.

Kathryn Chylstek, Daily File Photo

Minnesota guard Mikayla Bailey handles the ball during the second quarter at Williams Arena on Monday, Feb. 15.

Kaitlin Merkel

The Gophers senior night will take place Wednesday as guards Rachel Banham, Mikayla Bailey and Shayne Mullaney play their final game at Williams Arena.
 
 
Minnesota will play No. 5 Ohio State, ending its home schedule with one of its toughest matchups of the year.
 
 
“You try not to think about everything that’s going to happen during the game and before the game and that it is senior night,” Banham said. “We’re really focused on, ‘It’s Ohio State,’ a very good team, a team that we definitely can beat. So we’ve got to be ready to go, and we’re focused defensively for this game.”
 
 
The team’s three seniors will all end their careers in Minnesota’s record books.
 
 
Bailey has made 140 3-pointers over her career, the sixth-most in program history. Mullaney is the fourth Gophers player to record 500 assists, and her career total of 531 assists ranks third all-time.
 
 
Banham is Minnesota’s all-time leading scorer, and set the Big Ten record for career points in the team’s last game against Michigan State.
 
 
The redshirt senior scored 52 points against the Spartans on Sunday, but the Gophers lost because the team allowed 114 points.
 
 
“At Michigan State, we needed to exert more energy and effort on the defensive end of the floor,” head coach Marlene Stollings said. “We’ve continued to show film on that and continued to work on it. And I think that they don’t feel good about their performance … so I expect to see a different team on that end of the floor.”
 
 
The Gophers will need a better showing on defense to contain Ohio State’s sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell and senior guard Ameryst Alston. The pair average a combined 44.1 points per game, second-highest in the nation behind only Banham and Gophers sophomore guard Carlie Wagner.
 
 
A Minnesota victory would mean a large boost in the team’s chances of making the NCAA tournament. The Gophers currently rank No. 80 in the ratings percentage index, a factor in the tournament selection based on record and strength of schedule.
 
 
“We’re all locked in. After a loss at Michigan State, we’re even [hungrier] to come out and win at home,” Bailey said. “[As] seniors … we want to go to the NCAA tournament. So these wins are important, and it comes down to these games. We’re really focused in, and we’re really disciplined in these practices.”
 
 
Stollings said she’s used senior night to motivate the team, knowing it will be one of the team’s last chances to make its case for the tournament.
 
 
“The important thing on senior night is to just use all of that to your advantage and have it carry you through the game,” Stollings said. “Let it help you in those moments where you might be a little bit winded or you might need to get a defensive stop. … We just talk about using it to your advantage.”