Banham could play versus South Dakota State

Rachel Banham went down with a right foot injury a few days ago.

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham dribbles past Green Bay guard Megan Lukan on March 19, 2014 at Williams Arena.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota guard Rachel Banham dribbles past Green Bay guard Megan Lukan on March 19, 2014 at Williams Arena.

Jack Satzinger

Gophers star guard Rachel Banham went down with a foot injury in the second half of her team’s 77-70 win over Southern Methodist on Sunday.

It looked like her season could be over. She exited the locker room and returned to the bench with a walking boot on her right foot.

Banham had the injury looked at later that night, and her test results have given the team hope that she’ll be able to play Thursday against South Dakota State.

“We got the best news we could have gotten,” head coach Pam Borton said.

Banham’s injury, which was feared to be a broken foot, was diagnosed as a mid-foot sprain.

“It’s just really sore,” Borton said. “She’s resting as much as she can.”

If Banham can’t go against the Jackrabbits, the Gophers might have only six players in uniform.

Borton said having only a handful of players available isn’t an issue, because she’s been sporting a tight lineup for months.

Still, things can go awry without the security blanket of a deep bench.

“I think the only issue we would have is if somebody goes down in a game or if somebody gets in foul trouble,” she said.

That happened last Sunday.

Banham injured her foot, and the Gophers’ second star player — freshman center Amanda Zahui B. — found herself on the bench in foul trouble.

Minnesota senior guard Sari Noga, whose leadership has shown more and more as her final season comes to a close, also nearly fouled out while scoring a much-needed 22 points.

Noga has played with more inexperienced perimeter players of late as the injury bug has hit the Gophers.

Minnesota freshman guard Joanna Hedstrom has taken full advantage of the on-court opportunities. She played 23 minutes last game and scored five points while racking up three assists.

“I’ve been trying to learn from the guards on the floor in practice,” she said. “It was really good to gain confidence.”

Hedstrom and the rest of the Gophers will have to travel to a hostile environment when they face South Dakota State on Thursday night.

Though Minnesota is a No. 1 seed in the WNIT and should have home-court advantage, a robotics competition that starts Thursday at Williams Arena has forced the team to travel.

Still, the players don’t see it as a big concern.

“I don’t think it’s going to matter what the environment’s like,” Noga said.

If Banham plays Thursday, the Gophers should have a great chance of topping South Dakota State. Borton said she thinks they’ll be fine either way.

“We’ve got kids that step up when they need to,” she said.

Now, the question is whether they’ll have to take that responsibility.