Creighton beats Gophers

Minnesota turned the ball over 22 times in its first loss of the season.

by Jack Satzinger

Looking at the box score of the Gophers’ 63-52 loss to Creighton on Saturday, it’s puzzling that they didn’t pull out the win.

Minnesota (2-1) shot 45.5 percent from the field to Creighton’s 38.7 percent. It made half of its three-pointers, while the Bluejays hit just more than 30 percent from behind the arc. Minnesota also had a sizeable 37-28 rebounding advantage.

But Creighton (2-1) took advantage of a bevy of turnovers to hand the Gophers their first loss of the season.

“We’ve got to take care of the ball a little bit better — actually a lot better,” head coach Pam Borton said to reporters after the game. “I thought that was the difference in the game.”

Creighton took care of the ball, only turning it over seven times. The Gophers, meanwhile, committed 22 turnovers that led to the Bluejays’ many fast breaks and limited Minnesota’s scoring chances.

It’s not often that junior guard Rachel Banham leaves a game without being the top scorer, but it happened Saturday.

Banham and redshirt freshman Amanda Zahui B. led Minnesota with 14 points apiece, but Creighton’s Sarah Nelson put up 22 points to lead all scorers.

She scored seemingly at will, despite multiple defensive looks from the Gophers.

“We had no answer for her,” Borton said to reporters after the game. “We tried a lot of different things. … That was a one-woman show.”

Minnesota hasn’t been a one-woman show this season, despite having one of the best players in the country in Banham. She moved into 13th on the Gophers’ all-time scoring list after Saturday’s game.

Still, she isn’t the team’s top scorer in the young season.

She put up 15 points in the season opener at Northern Iowa, 20 last week against Charlotte and 14 Saturday for a season average of 16.3 points per game.

Zahui B. was suspended for the Northern Iowa win but tallied 19 points against Charlotte and 14 Saturday for an average of 16.5 points per game.

Zahui B.’s emergence has given Minnesota more options on offense — when she’s able to stay on the floor.

“I thought it hurt us with Amanda getting in foul trouble in the first half,” Borton said.

In the win against Charlotte, Zahui B. and three other Gophers post players all had three fouls before the first half was over. That forced Borton to play an unorthodox five-guard lineup.

That didn’t happen Saturday, but Banham at times struggled to get to the basket.

“They were clogging the lane on Rachel and making her take tough shots,” Borton said.

Borton said Banham needs to be tougher down low and get better at drawing fouls. A few weeks ago at Big Ten Media Day, Banham said she’s been working on building lower-body strength to work down low more this season.

Senior guard Sari Noga added nine points and seven rebounds for the Gophers while playing all 40 minutes of the game, but she also committed a team-high five turnovers.

“I just didn’t feel like we got into a real good flow offensively,” Borton said.