Gophers’ sophomore Rachel Banham has accomplished things in her young career that Minnesota legend Lindsay Whalen didn’t.
You can call it a product of necessity, as Banham has topped 30-plus points in three of Minnesota’s last four games – and the Gophers are still just 2-2 in that stretch.
Banham broke Whalen’s record for most career points by a sophomore in Gophers’ history – notching 34 points in a win over Iowa and putting her mark at 1,099 with six games to go.
Whalen finished with 1,093 career points by the end of her sophomore season in 2001-2002.
The key difference is Whalen bounced back from her team’s terrible freshman season, in which the Gophers lost 17 of its last 18 games, to lead the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament the following year.
Well, her Gophers have already lost more Big Ten games (6) than Whalen (5) did in her sophomore season, and the NCAA Tournament is no guarantee.
She’s desperately needs a secondary scorer, but none of her teammates have stepped up – hence the 28.5 point-average scoring outbreak in her last four games.
The Gophers are shaky on defense, but when they do defend – Banham’s scoring is usually enough to get them over the hump.
But Minnesota can’t rely on Banham to do it every night. It’s still a team sport, after all.
There have been just two instances in 10 conference games that Banham hasn’t been one of the Gophers’ leading scorers.
Both times, a January win at Wisconsin and a loss to Nebraska on Feb. 3, Gophers’ forward Micaella Riche led the team. Though Riche is a beast on the boards, she isn’t an offensive powerhouse.
The junior has scored more than 15 points once this Big Ten season and is not the answer for Minnesota as a secondary scorer.
As Banham garners accolades, which she’ll continue to do in Maroon and Gold, she needs someone to go to for reliable offense. Without it, she’ll get no shot at the glory of NCAA Tournaments like her predecessor.
Until then, Whalen remains the Gophers’ legend of women’s basketball.