Minnesota attack on record pace

The team averages 80.4 points, which would be a school record if it holds.

Senior Shayne Mullaney faces pressure from Illinois defense at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 26.

Sam Harper, Daily File Photo

Senior Shayne Mullaney faces pressure from Illinois defense at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 26.

Kaitlin Merkel

When Marlene Stollings took over the Gophers women’s basketball program in 2014, she brought her fast-paced offense with her.
 
 
Now, in only the team’s second season under Stollings, the system seems to have taken hold, as the Gophers are scoring at a program-record pace.
 
 
“Our offense is really fun, fast paced [in] transition, so I think our team thrives in that kind of environment,” senior guard Shayne Mullaney said. “We pride ourselves on our offense, and it’s something we emphasize every day in practice and work a lot on. We have great shooters … and it makes it fun when we score.”
 
 
Minnesota is averaging 80.4 points per game through 21 games, which would be the highest average in program history if it held for the rest of the season. The Gophers offense is also ranked fourth in the Big Ten and ninth in the NCAA.
 
 
The team usually employs four or five guards at a time to keep up the scoring pace, which means the Gophers can struggle when shots aren’t falling. 
 
 
“Our strength will be the perimeter game, whether that’s driving to the basket or shooting the three,” Stollings said. “So we’re playing to our strengths, and we need to be on offensively to have success on any given night. If our players have an off night, it’s going to be tough for us because that is our strength.”
 
 
Most nights, the Gophers (14-7, 6-4 Big Ten) have been on this year. The team has scored 90 points or more in seven games this year, four of them coming in Big Ten play, which ties a program record.
 
 
“We’re a very high-offense team. Everybody can score in multiple ways. If you take something away, there’s always somebody open somewhere [who] is just as dangerous,” sophomore guard Carlie Wagner said.
 
 
The Gophers’ strong shooting has helped them make 73.5 percent of their free throws, the fourth-best rate in the Big Ten. The team is also tied for 12th in the country in 3-pointers made with 189.
 
 
“Obviously, offense is our thing. … We can score; that’s not going to change,” redshirt senior guard Rachel Banham said. “All five of us on the court can shoot threes, so that’s hard for teams to guard, and that’s been a huge difference for us scoring-wise.”
 
 
Minnesota has used its offense to climb to sixth place in the Big Ten standings, but the hurdle preventing the team from climbing higher is its defense.
 
 
Opponents average 74.1 points against Minnesota, which ranks last in the Big Ten.
 
 
“When we’re missing, we’ve got to be able to get stops on the other end,” Banham said. “In practice, we’re working really hard on our defense and getting rebounds and stuff, but we’ve just got to be consistent with it, and that needs to be our focus.”
 
 
Ben Gotz contributed to this report.