Rachel Banham is a basketball magician, there's really no other way to put it. The redshirt senior from Lakeville, Minnesota tied an NCAA scoring record with 60 points on Sunday leading Minnesota (16-7, 8-4 Big Ten) to a 112-106 double overtime win over Northwestern (14-10, 3-9).
Just like the last time these two teams played, the game started out fast. Minnesota's Mikayla Bailey opened the scoring with a three and then Rachel Banham added two of her own. Minnesota would finish the half shooting 60 percent from deep. Unlike last time however, Northwestern managed to keep pace and not fall behind by 19.
In between the Minnesota three point barrage, four Northwestern starters scored, including a pair of jumpers from Maggie Lyon to give Northwestern a 10-9 lead halfway through the first quarter. The rest of the quarter was much of the same as the two teams traded runs and the score was tied 22 a piece after the first.
The two teams kept it close early in the second, but then with 4:36 left in the half Northwestern ripped off it's biggest run of the game, a 10-0 run featuring three pointers from Ashley Deary and Lydia Rohde. The Wildcats would then ride that momentum to a 6 point halftime lead, 46-40.
Northwestern kept its momentum to open the third quarter as a Maggie Lyon free throw capped a quick 4-0 run. The Wildcats extended their lead to 10, their largest of the game. Lyon finished with a double-double, amassing 31 points and 12 rebounds as well as 6 assists. She also played 49 out of 50 minutes.
The rest of the third quarter was a slow burn as Minnesota tried to fight back. Northwestern would head into the fourth up 7, 63-56. However, the fourth quarter would once again be a mess for the Wildcats.
After the lead was extended to 9, Minnesota went on an 11-1 run to take their first lead since early in the second quarter. Of those 11 points, all 11 were scored by Banham. Then insanity ensued.
With five minutes left, Deary hit a huge three to answer a three from Joanna Hedstrom, then stole the ball on the next possession and raced down the court for an easy layup to put Northwestern up 5. Then with only a minute left Banham turned the ball over, Deary scooped it up and scored on the other end and Northwestern led by four. Deary would finish with 22 points, 11 assists and 6 steals.
But Banham would not be denied, she was fouled shooting a three on the next posession and calmly hit all three free throws. Then after Carlie Wagner hit one of two from the line, Christen Inman missed a midrange jumper and a three pointer at the buzzer sending the game to overtime.
In OT Northwestern once again looked like they would come out on top as back to to back threes from Deary and Rohde and a Coffey layup put the Wildcats up 5. Banham hit a jumper and a three in between two Lyon free throws and then with three seconds left she blew by her defender and got an easy layup to send the game to double OT.
The second overtime was all Minnesota. The Golden Gophers took an early lead on a Hedstrom layup and would not trail again. Fouls finally caught up to Northwestern as both Coffey and Inman fouled out towards the end of the period and the Wildcats had to finish the game with a lineup of mostly bench players. With 11 seconds left and Minnesota up four, Banham was fouled and hit two free throws to hit 60 points for the game and tie the NCAA scoring record.
This loss drops the Wildcats to 14-10 on the season and 3-9 in Big Ten play. They have still not won back to back conference games. Northwestern's next game is Wednesday in Piscataway, New Jersey against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
There are so many different adjectives that can be used to describe the way Rachel Banham played on Sunday. Unbelievable, unreal, absurd, amazing, the list goes on. She scored 60 points going 19 of 32 from the field, 8 of 15 from three and 14-16 from the line. For comparison, Nia Coffey and Maggie Lyon scored a combined 59 points going 22 of 52 from the field. Banham's usage rate was 44.3 percent which means she either scored or assisted on 44 percent of Minnesota's baskets. She had 18 points in a fourth quarter that was basically just her willing Minnesota back into the game.
""We were going to rotate different people on her and I thought the first half we did a decent job," said Head Coach Joe McKeown. "Then there were times where she just, no matter who you put on her she was making shots."
There really isn't even a takeaway here, just the fact that Rachel Banham just played one of the greatest games of basketball ever. Not sure we'll ever see one like that again.
Rachel Banham did not miss many shots, but Northwestern wasn't exactly doing its best to pressure her either. For much of the game Northwestern refused to double Banham and was consistently going under on ball screens. This left Banham wide open for an easy three pointer, a shot she hit more often than not. However, McKeown was adamant that they could not really double Banham for most of the game.
"Their other players are good players too, so you've got to them a little bit, you can't just run two or three people at her. They've proven they can play off of that," said McKeown. "But I don't get a do over, we probably should have done some things we talked about in practice, so I'll take responsibility for that."
Even when there wasn't a screen set, Banham was still blowing by defenders on the perimeter. Her layup to tie the game at 92 at the end of OT was one of her easiest baskets all game. Banham had a once in a lifetime game, but Northwestern's defense certainly helped her get there.
On the offensive end Northwestern has seemingly fallen in love with the mid-range jumper. This is somewhat acceptable when the shots are falling, but when Lyon and Inman have lines like 11 of 26 or 5 of 17 from the field it begins to become a problem. These types of shots are a part of both their games, but they've started to get a little out of hand as of late, especially when many of them are contested.