There was not 1 but 2 heartstoppers on Sunday. The Vikes, of course.
But almost as exciting was the Gopher women's shocking come-from-behind, victory-from-the-jaws-of-defeat 88-81 2 OT win over the Creighton Bluejays.
Phase 1: Gophers are worse than terrible
Creighton led 38-18 late in the 1st half, 38-23 at the half, and 52-33 with 10:07 left in the game. Minnesota had been worse than terrible to that point. On offense, the Gophers were totally discombobulated, repeatedly putting it up into the Bluejays' defense, often into double teams. Fans were heard to say, "That's a tough shot," and then, "Oh, that's a tough shot, too," and, "Oh man, that's a really tough shot." Needless to say, they made only 30 percent of those really tough shots.
But the Gophers' defense was even worse, much worse. Creighton's shooters were as open as Minnesota's were not, and so they made 14-of-26, or 54 percent. The Gophers switched at the very sight of a pick, resulting in repeated match-up problems in the post, where Rachel Banham (5-9) and Sari Noga (5-10) and Shayne Mullaney (5-10) and Leah Cotton (5-8) repeatedly ended up guarding the Blue Jays' Alyssa Kamphaus (6-3) and Sarah Nelson (6-0).
And Nelson was allowed to back down to the rim on the low block, dribbling the ball two-three-four-five-six and even eight times, and help would never arrive. Where, at what level, boys, girls, men, women, is a post player allowed to dribble the ball six and eight times in the paint, and a double team never arrives? I've never seen such a thing. No wonder Nelson ended up as the Blue Jays' leading scorer with 19.
Then at 2:52 of the 1st, Banham took the ball to the rim, where she tried to split 2 tall defenders. She went to the floor with a crack that was heard throughout the Barn, and she didn't get up as Creighton took the ball downcourt. Finally at 2:37 timeout was called with the result that Rachel was helped off the court, looking pretty shaky. I assumed that she would not be back.
Well, she was back. But the Gophers' performance did not improve, and halfway through the 2nd half they were still down by 19 at 52-33, and had shown no signs whatsoever of being able to mount a rally.
Phase 2: Rachel Banham does her best impression of Superwoman
Banham finished the 1st half with 6 points on 3-of-8 shooting. And she made just 1-of-3 FG in the 1st 10 minutes of the 2nd. And not only that, but it was her turnover that led to a Marissa Janning 3 to put the Blue Jays ahead by that 52-33 score.
Then, suddenly, imperceptibly at first, it became the Rachel Banham show. First came a steal and a 2 inside of 8 minutes. 35 seconds later it was a 2 + 1 from Kayla Hirt, then 2 steals followed by 3 buckets within 55 seconds, then finally a J to tie it up at 43 seconds remaining.
The hits just kept on coming in OT as Banham added another 15 points to her total for a career high of 39. In the 1st OT her 9 points gave Minnesota a 69-61 lead with 2 minutes remaining. But now it was Creighton's turn for a comeback, as the Gophers continued to ignore the Blue Jays' 3 point shooters. Jordan Garrison tied it up at 72 at 0:08 from 35 feet.
In the 2nd OT Banham added 6 more and Minnesota again took the lead. This time Creighton was unable to rally.
Sidebar: Marissa Janning versus Shayne Mullaney...and Rachel Banham
I love Shayne Mullaney, as you know, and she had a decent game overall. 8 points on 4-of-13 shooting, 6 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 turnovers is 44 minutes. But my goodness, can Creighton freshman Marissa Janning (from Watertown, MN) play! 18 points on 7-of-10 FG, 7 boards, 4 assists, 2 turnovers in 36 minutes.
And of course, there was another Minnesota guard on the floor though she's not a freshman like Mullaney and Janning. But she, too, can play the game of basketball a little bit. Banham finished with those 39 points on 13-of-25 FG and 13-of-13 FT, 5 steals, 4 assists and 2 turnovers.
Minnesota won. But if they play 30 minutes in the Big 10 like they did today, they're not going to come back to win. The defense in particular was absolutely horrible. I mean, they've got to fight over the top of a pick now and again, and stop passively accepting those mismatches in the paint. And they've got to get out on the 3-point shooters. They did neither one today, and that is not a good omen.