Minnesota outlasts Butler in overtime

Senior guard Rachel Banham scored 35 points in the team’s win Sunday night.

Matt Greenstein

In early stages of their season, the Gophers have had trouble getting off to quick starts, forcing them to rely on the second half to catch up.

Sunday night’s 88-86 overtime victory against the Butler Bulldogs was no exception.

“Butler is a very talented team. They gave us all we could handle tonight. I’m very proud of the resiliency of our team,” head coach Marlene Stollings said.

With 4.9 seconds left in the game, senior guard Rachel Banham drained a 3-pointer, which tied the game and sent it to overtime.

“I knew I had to take the last shot. I was ready for it. I was feeling it for most of the game, so I just let it fly,” said Banham, who had a game-high 35 points.

The Gophers pulled out the victory in overtime, improving their record to 8-1 on the season.

However, the victory was anything but easy for Minnesota.

With senior stars Banham and forward Shae Kelley facing foul trouble early, Stollings had to call on Minnesota’s youthful bench for a significant portion of the first half.

“We’ve had to have people step up and step into those roles, and I think that’s exactly what happened tonight,” Stollings said.

The Gophers struggled from beyond the arc in the first half, shooting 1-for-7. But they finished the game shooting 37.5 percent from long range.

At the end of the first half, the Gophers continued chipping away at Butler’s nine-point lead, giving them the momentum they needed to have a strong second half.

Redshirt sophomore Amanda Zahui B. helped the Gophers assert their dominance in the post, finishing with 25 points.

“It was a fight the whole night, but it’s all about toughness,” she said.

Zahui B. also gave Minnesota help with rebounding — a point of emphasis for the Gophers in recent days.

She finished the game with 10 rebounds, including four on the offensive end.

“My role is to rebound. I need to do that to help my team win,” Zahui said.

Banham also played her part with scoring, and she said her aggressiveness in the second half helped the team down the stretch.

The Gophers’ depth was tested late in the second half and in overtime after Kelley fouled out.

Banham and Zahui B. accounted for nearly 70 percent of the team’s offense in the game, but junior forward Kayla Hirt gave Minnesota a boost in overtime. She finished the game with eight points and six rebounds.

“I think a lot of people stepped up. We hit shots and got stops,” Banham said.

In overtime, the Gophers’ home-court advantage helped give them an edge on all sides of the ball.

“We’ve said all year that our crowd is going to be huge. When we play here, we want it to be a major home-court advantage,” Stollings said. “They really responded to our kids, and we feed off of that.”