Yesterday I said that today I would write about the dreaded “wintery mix,” but that will have to wait for another day, because last night I saw one of the greatest displays of basketball wizardry ever last night.
The Gopher Women were playing Illinois, who they’d beaten 106-75 earlier in Champaign. I was looking for another easy victory, but the Illini were fired up and out for revenge. They came out nailing threes and playing great defense, plus they were getting a big contribution from Alex Wittinger, a freshman forward from Delano, MN.
Their point guard, Kylie Simmons, was shooting the lights out as well as doing a great job of frustrating our super-star shooting guard Rachel Banham. Unfortunately for Kylie, she was forced to foul Rachel 3 times in the first half to keep her from blowing by her. But the home team was struggling and the visitors were thriving and that resulted in the Gophers being down by 16 at the half. Banham, who averages 24, had only 2 points at the break.
I really wasn’t particularly worried, I’ve seen this team make a lot of comebacks and when my nephew Scott, who was with me mentioned Banham’s lack of scoring I told him I’d seen her have poor first halves before and still score in the twenties.
They had a 13 run at the end of the third quarter to pull within one. And then Banham absolutely torched them in the fourth. She scored 18 in the quarter going 5 for 6 from the three point line. It was just an unbelievable display of shooting talent. She was hitting off screens, off the step-back move, creating her own opportunities. You could see it in her eyes, she was not going to let them lose. She finished up the game with three consecutive triples, the last of which put them ahead 80-77. The fans were on their feet for the last three minutes of the game.
If you love basketball and you haven’t seen this kid play, you owe it to yourself to get down to the barn for a game this year.
The Gopher Women’s Basketball team upset #20 Northwester 95-92 last night at Williams Arena. Lead by Rachel Banham’s 32 points and 4 steals, they took advantage of the Wildcat’s star Nia Coffey being forced to sit out most of the first half with foul trouble to build an eleven point lead at the half. Northwestern answered with 33 points in the third quarter to get back in the game, but the home team held on in the fourth, beating back the visitor’s charge and makin 7 or 8 free-throws down the stretch.
In the first half the played as well as they have all year, using their quickness, shooting and ball movement to counter a significant size disadvantage. Alina Starr helped the Gophers out-rebound the Cat’s 39-38 with strength and hustle, playing above her height against much taller players. But many in the stands were left unsure of how she pronounces her first name. It sounded like the announcer pronounced it “A-lay-na,” “Al-eye-na”, and “A-leen-a.” However you pronounce it, it means “plays hard” in hoop language. A mid-year transfer from Auburn last year, she just became eligible to play after first semester. She immediately became a starter and what a great addition to the team she’s been.
The crowd got a first look at another transfer, although in street clothes, Bry Fernstrom, a 6’5″ post who was starting at Iowa State when she left the team mid-season. She will be eligible in time for the Big Ten season next year. Coach Marlene Stollings has another transfer in streets on the bench, Kanisha Bell who averaged 14.5 points a game as a starting point guard for Marquette and broke the school’s record for steals by a freshman. She was named to the Big East All-Freshman team. It looks like she’s the top candidate to fill the hole left by graduating senior Shayne Mullaney.
Interestingly all three of the transfers mentioned are Minnesota girls who, for whatever reason, transferred back to the U after Stollings took over the program last year. Kill the fatted calf baby, the prodigal daughters have returned!
This post was an experiment by the author, the point of which was to write a post without using the first person pronoun.