Women end Big Ten season strong

The Gophers beat Indiana on Sunday after upsetting PSU on Thursday.

by Samuel Gordon

The topsy-turvy Gophers women’s basketball regular season is over.

And while there have been plenty of lows, especially in Big Ten play, Minnesota finished the regular season on a high note that could help propel it into the NCAA tournament.

Minnesota followed up its upset of No. 7 Penn State on Thursday with a 59-53 road win over conference cellar dweller Indiana.

The Gophers (18-12) won three of their past four Big Ten games to finish the conference season 7-9, a one-game improvement from their 2011-12 record.

Junior forward-center Micaëlla Riché continued to roll after a 24-point outing against Penn State with a dominant effort against Indiana. She had 17 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.

Her three-point play with 23 seconds left proved to be the biggest play of the game. It put the Gophers up six and essentially ended any hope for a Hoosiers comeback.

Sophomore guard Rachel Banham had 15 points and six assists. Freshman guard Shayne Mullaney added 11 points and five rebounds.

Minnesota jumped on Indiana early and led by 10 late in the first half. Indiana made a push to cut the deficit to five at halftime, but the Gophers stretched their lead to 11 early in the second half.

Minnesota’s win over Indiana was important for its NCAA tournament chances but not as important as its win over Penn State.

The No. 7 Nittany Lions had already clinched a share of the Big Ten regular season championship before they were upset in Minneapolis.

Aside from 23 turnovers, the Gophers were nearly flawless offensively and shot 67 percent from the floor.

Riché’s 24 points led the way. Banham scored 23 points, and junior guard Sari Noga made six three-pointers and had 19 points, both career highs.

Noga also hassled Big Ten Player of the year frontrunner Maggie Lucas and forced her into an inefficient night offensively — 23 points on 10-for-24 shooting.

Minnesota will play Ohio State on Thursday in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament.

The Gophers swept the season series with the Buckeyes.