Women’s Basketball: Wildcats slow down Banham, finally get past Minnesota


Keshia Johnson/The Daily Northwestern

Lydia Rohde (left) and Christen Inman (right) double-team Minnesota guard Rachel Banham. Banham matched an NCAA record with 60 points in the Wildcats’ last bout with the Gophers, but Thursday Northwestern held her to 26.

Cole Paxton, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

At last, Northwestern found a way. The Wildcats finally managed to slow down superstar guard Rachel Banham, and after two heartbreaking losses to the Gophers, NU came out on top when it mattered most.

The Cats (17-15, 4-14 Big Ten) held Banham, the Big Ten Player of the Year, to 26 points and erased a pair of regular season defeats to Minnesota (19-11, 11-7) in an 84-74 win Thursday at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.

Banham entered Thursday averaging 30.5 points per game in Big Ten play and has scored at least 35 points five times. She tied the NCAA record with 60 points in the Gophers’ 112-106 double overtime win in Evanston in February, and scored 32 in Minnesota’s 95-92 victory in Minneapolis weeks earlier.

“Just getting to her early, trying to show a lot of people, trying to switch out on things, trap her, try to get the ball out of her hands,” coach Joe McKeown said of NU’s plan against Banham. “I didn’t feel like she had a lot of opportunities by herself, and that’s what we wanted to do.”

Beyond keeping Banham below her season average, the Cats made the senior guard work for every point. She finished 7-of-25 from the field and made just 3-of-14 3-point attempts.

In the double-overtime classic, Banham scored 18 points in the fourth quarter to send the game into the additional periods, then hit a game-tying layup just before the buzzer sounded in the first extra session.

On Thursday, however, she missed three shots in the final minute as the Gophers tried to mount a last-ditch charge and hit just one 3-pointer in the second half.

“It was just one of those games where it wasn’t falling,” Banham said of her jump shot. “I was just trying to be aggressive and take inside shots.”

Though NU employed several defenses against Banham, junior guard Ashley Deary, spent much of the game matched up with the potent scorer.

“We were really focusing on either high-hedging or trapping and just really trying to get her out of her comfort zone and trying to get the ball out of her hands,” Deary said. “And I think for the most part, our team did a good job of just communicating and rotating on the help side.”

Beyond Banham, the Cats got revenge on Minnesota as a whole. After crumbling defensively in both regular season meetings, NU held the Gophers to just 36.1 percent shooting; the 74 points allowed were the fewest Minnesota has scored since Jan. 14.

After an extended fourth quarter scoring drought in the first game and multiple blown late leads in the second meeting, the Cats led throughout the second half Thursday and weathered a Minnesota run midway through the fourth quarter. The Wildcats pulled away late to secure the victory.

After the two previous losses to the Gophers, Deary said there was something a little special about getting to play them a third time.

“This is definitely a game that we were excited to come into with the opportunity to play,” Deary said. “And everybody was really revved up for this game, and we came out there and played hard and showed it.”

Email: colepaxton2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @ckpaxton