Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Big Game 3-25-12: Gopher women win the WBI, Look to 2013

Minnesota rallied from a 9-point half-time deficit to run away from Northern Iowa 88-74 Sunday afternoon to claim the championship of the Women's Basketball Invitational.

Many Gopher fans have expressed outrage that the team chose to play in the WBI rather than the NIT. The WBI afforded the Gophers 4 home games against mid-majors (or less) Charleston Southern (won 80-51), Bradley (won 85-59), Manhattan (won 67-54) and now Northern Iowa. The Gophers were the only BCS school in the 16-team field. Some have said, So they beat teams they're supposed to beat.

Well, when was the last time they beat 4 straight teams that they were supposed to beat? I figure, enjoy it. I hope the team did.

Minnesota started slowly, falling behind 12-6, 19-10, 34-24 and 40-28. At the half Northern Iowa led 41-32. Northern then extended its led to 49-36 early in the 2nd half, but the Gophers stormed back to tie at 55-all (a 19-6 run) as Rachel Banham scored 6 and Jackie Voigt 4.

Minnesota scored 5 more points, a 3 by Sari Noga and another 2 by Banham, extending the run to 24-6 and the Gophers' 1st lead since 4-3 to 60-55, before Northern scored again. 3 minutes later it was 69-59. Game over.

Banham closed out a spectacular freshman season with 26 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists and was named to the all-WBI tournament team. Kiara Buford closed out her Gopher career with 14 points, 6 assists and 4 steals and was named WBI tournament MVP. Noga, Voigt and Micaella Riche alsoscored in double figures while Riche led all players with 8 boards.

For the 4 games, Banham had 62 points, 9 boards, 14 assists and 8 steals. Buford had 52 points, 7 boards, 17 assists, 6 steals and 3 blocked shots.

Minnesota finished with a winning record (19-17) the only way possible, by winning all 4 WBI games.

For the record, here are the minutes played per game by position in these 4 games.

Center--Riche (soph.) 21 Loberg (jr.) 16 Dvorak (redshirt soph.) 3
Power Forward--Kellogg (soph.) 22 Voigt (sr.) 17 N. Mastey (sr.) 1
Small Forward--B. Mastey (sr.) 21 Noga (soph.) 17.5 N. Mastey (sr.) 1.5
Point Guard--Banham (fr.) 30 Cotton (jr.) 10
Shooting Guard--Buford (sr.) 28.5 Cotton (jr.) 7.5 Ionescu (fr.) 2 Noga (soph.) 2


To replace Buford, B. Mastey and Voigt next year you've got Kayla Hirt (redshirt fr.), Jackie Johnson (fr.) and Shayne Mullaney (fr.). I'm guessing something like this:

Center--Riche (jr.) 21 Loberg (sr.) 16 Dvorak (redshirt jr.) 3
Power Forward--Kellogg (jr.) 27 J. Johnson (fr.) 13 (Shonte Clay?)
Small Forward--Hirt (redshirt fr.) 26 Noga (jr.) 14
Point Guard--Banham (soph.) 30 Cotton (sr.) 10
Shooting Guard--Mullaney (fr.) 22 Cotton (sr.) 15 Noga (jr.) 2 Ionescu (soph.) 1 (M. Bailey?)

Comparing 2012 to 2013, the Gophers are really really really going to miss Kiara Buford. The other seniors, no disrespect intended, can be replaced.


  1. What about Mikayla Bailey? Or is she a 2013?

  2. Good question. No she is a 2012. It's not like there's a lack of depth unless somebody gets hurt. So the question is whether she takes minutes away from Mullaney and/or Cotton. And given her skill set (more size, more defense) the potential is that yes, she could. But the lack of offensive skills are a problem unless you assume that Banham and the forwards represent enough firepower. But even worst case, there's a potential 5 minutes or so of Bailey next year even if it's only giving Banham or Mullaney or Noga or Cotton a rest when somebody else is in foul trouble. IOW give Bailey 5 minutes and take it out of Banham, Mullaney, Noga and Cotton about equally. In that sort of a role of course we're talking more like 10 one night and zero the next as opposed to a consistent 5 minutes.

  3. Thanks! I am intrigued by the addition of Johnson & Mullaney next year and I sure hope that Hirt is able to play. I hope the pressure of 'we'd be a Sweet 16 team if Hirt played' doesn't bother her. Loved watching Banham. I also liked the development of Riche...she is my favorite player. Now only 8 months to go....