Gopher women’s hoops: Missed shots turn into lost season

Rachel Banham rose up and nailed a three-pointer with 42 seconds left in her team’s 70-63 loss to Northwestern on Sunday. The bucket brought Gophers women’s basketball within three points.

The sophomore’s heroics were nothing new – and neither were the results to follow.

The Gophers would miss their next three shots, two of them by Banham, en route to their seventh loss in the last nine games.

Let’s set the stage just four months ago, when Borton talked up her team like any coach would during the preseason.

“I believe we can contend for a Big Ten title,” Borton said at Big Ten Media Day in Chicago on Oct. 25. She went on to say this was her best squad in recent memory.

Yet missed opportunities continue this season for Banham & Co., who dropped to 4-8 in the Big Ten on Sunday.

The Wildcats, who average 41 percent shooting on the season, went off for 52 percent against the Gophers’ loose defense.

In terms of scoring percentage, Minnesota has outshot opponents in four of its last nine games – yet a 2-7 record comes of it.

Coach Pam Borton’s squad has problems that stem beyond the percentage game. Borton, in her 11th year at the helm of Gopher lady hoops, instinctively points to her team’s defense as one of the primary culprits.

Minnesota has allowed more than 45-percent shooting in seven of its last nine games – essentially it’s a coin flip if an opposing team will make a shot. You can’t consistently win like that.

You can’t win a Big Ten title like that, either. Borton’s preseason hopes were squandered before any February games took place and now it looks like they’ll miss out on the NCAA Tournament again.

Minnesota hasn’t strung together back-to-back wins since early January. Borton’s group has four contests left, including hosting powerhouses Penn State and Purdue.

It’ll take four in a row to get back to a .500 conference record and any hope at the Big Dance.