Minnesota falls in second round of Big Tens

The Gophers lost to Nebraska 80-67 after beating rival Wisconsin.

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham pushes through Illinois defense Jan. 28, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Image by Amanda Snyder, Daily File Photo

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham pushes through Illinois’ defense Jan. 28, 2013, at Williams Arena.

by Jack Satzinger

Before the Big Ten tournament started, Gophers head coach Pam Borton said she felt like her team deserved to be in the NCAA tournament.

Now, after losing to Nebraska 80-67 in the second round, the team will have to wait a full week to learn its fate.

The Gophers won their first-round game over Wisconsin in overtime, and Borton said she thought that win “absolutely” put her team in the tournament field.

It’s not that simple, though.

ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme has estimated for the last few weeks that the Gophers will be one of the “Last Four In” in the tournament field.

That changed Sunday morning — Creme has now listed the team as one of the “First Four Out” in the tournament field.

Minnesota is 20-12, and it finished in the middle of one of the toughest conferences in the nation.

Still, the team’s résumé lacks a signature win.

A win over Nebraska  over the weekend would have increased the Gophers’ chances to make the Big Dance.

Minnesota freshman guard Stabresa McDaniel did everything she could against Nebraska to get her team that first signature win.

She has stepped up considerably over the past few weeks and has helped take pressure off Rachel Banham.

McDaniel had a team-high 14 points in the loss. She added seven rebounds and three assists, but it wasn’t enough to best the Cornhuskers.

“I just have to play with confidence,” McDaniel told reporters after the game. “We can’t always depend on Rachel and Amanda [Zahui B.] to do all the scoring.”

Borton said she was satisfied with the strong play from McDaniel and the rest of the bench against Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers stymied Minnesota’s stars.

Banham, a Wooden Award finalist, and Zahui B., the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, both had an off-night.

Banham scored just 12 points, about half her usual average, on 4-for-12 shooting from the floor.

Zahui B. shot 5-for-6 from the field, but she had only 11 points to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Banham said Cornhuskers forward Hailie Sample frustrated her all game on the offensive end of the floor.

“[She] did a good job of face-guarding me and playing over the screen,” Banham told reporters after the game. “So even if I popped there, it wasn’t very open.”

After the Nebraska loss, Borton told reporters she still thinks the Gophers should be in the NCAA tournament.

Nebraska head coach Connie Yori agreed with her counterpart.

“They’ve played well down the stretch,” she said. “They need to be in the NCAA tournament.”