Gopher women’s hoops shooting too many threes

JAN 29, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Gophers guard Rachel Banham (1) looks for an opening while defended by Ohio State Buckeyes guard Amber Stokes (3) in the second half at Williams Arena. The Gophers defeated the Buckeyes 76-68. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

When your top scorer is in a shooting slump, it’s common practice for the player to shoot their way out of it — there’s a reason why they’re the prime scorer after all.

But the Gophers’ Rachel Banham, the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer and returning freshman of the year, has contributed to a team problem for Minnesota’s women’s basketball this season.

Back-to-back Big Ten victories and a 2-1 conference record don’t go without shooting a wretched 6-for-33 from the three-point line. Minnesota shot 1-for-11 from deep in Thursday’s 83-74 win over Ohio State.

Don’t get me wrong – the terrible percentage is a good thing, when considering coach Pam Borton’s ladies are still winning games.

But when you have forward Micaella Riche – who leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage – there’s no reason Banham should be putting up 18 shots a game in Big Ten play, including three three-point attempts per.

She hasn’t cost Minnesota any games, as their only conference loss was to a truly superior Michigan State team. But Banham has accumulated an awful 17-for-53 on field goals in the first three conference games and an even worse 1-for-10 from beyond the arc.

Borton needs to rein in her star sophomore and trust the Gophers’ inside presence in Riche, shooting a Big Ten best 57 percent from the floor, can get it done.

Banham still needs to handle the ball for the Gophers to be successful, as she averages 20.8 points per game.

However, her real contribution to Minnesota is her free throw shooting. In two conference wins, Banham shot a combined 17-for-19 from the line against Wisconsin and Ohio State, compared to just 2-for-2 in the loss to the Spartans.

If Banham stops pulling up for so many jumpers and drives to the lane like she’s naturally gifted to do, Minnesota stands a better chance against their next few opponents – which includes No. 12 Purdue on Thursday and No. 8 Penn State next week.

Topics: Basketball, Minnesota, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Womens

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