Banham can’t do it alone, Gopher women fall to 3-6 in Big Ten

JAN 29, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Gophers guard Rachel Banham (1) is 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

Every Batman needs a Robin.

Many Gopher faithful hoped a supporting cast would grow around Rachel Banham during her sophomore effort.

That has yet to materialize as Minnesota and its dark knight were blown out in a 24-point loss to Nebraska on Sunday, confirming the Gophers in the lower-half of the Big Ten standings.

The Gophers are now 14-9 with a 3-6 conference record that serves as an anchor to Banham’s sails.

The sophomore phenom averaged 26.7 points per game across Minnesota’s last three contests – yet the Gophers still went 1-2.

One of Banham’s career highlights came in last Monday’s loss to Illinois, where she notched her 1,000th point as a Gopher – scoring 37 and nailing five three-pointers.

It was a tough three-game stretch as Illinois, Michigan and Nebraska boast a combined 17-9 conference record. Yet Minnesota claimed an impressive victory over the Wolverines, who at the time were essentially ranked No. 26, as they were one spot out of the AP Top 25 last week.

The Gophers didn’t play well on defense, allowing Michigan to shoot 49 percent – but when Minnesota shoots 59 percent behind Banham’s 32 points, it doesn’t matter.

Banham shot 11-for-15 including a career-high six three-pointers, but more importantly, her fellow guard Kayla Hirt had an impressive outing with 10 points on 6-for-8 from the floor.

In Minnesota’s two losses last week, Hirt combined for 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting.

Hirt is Banham’s age and has the potential to be a go-to secondary scorer. The sophomore is battling through her first full season since being a junior in high school, but Coach Pam Borton has let her star reserve fade into the background.

In the Gophers’ blowout loss to Nebraska, the 19-to-9 turnover ratio helped seal the defeat.

Hirt played 24 minutes and shot 37 percent (3-for-8) against the Cornhuskers, with one turnover.

The other four starters, outside of Banham, committed nine turnovers and also shot a combined 37 percent (10-for-27).

I’m sure Hirt is still rehabbing from knee surgery a year ago, but maybe it’s time to give her a little nudge into a starting role.

Topics: Basketball, Gophers, Minnesota, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Womens

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