For Gophers star Rachel Banham, the first half of Wednesday’s 93-76 victory was forgettable.
In a dismal first half, Banham started the game shooting 25 percent from the field.
The Gophers were in a hole, at one point down 12 points and in dire need of a scorer to come to light. But senior forward Shae Kelley came forward, giving the team a much-needed spark.
“If someone’s not hitting [shots], someone else is picking up for it,” Banham said. “It definitely helps when someone else is picking it up.”
At the end of the half, Kelley recorded 13 points and added an additional spark on defense, recording two steals and a block.
She said the Gophers’ fast pace has allowed her to thrive on both sides of the ball.
“This is my style of play,” she said. “I think I’ve adjusted very well.”
Kelley was one of three Gophers to end the game with a double-double. She recorded 21 points and 14 rebounds.
In the game, in which the Gophers had a clear height advantage, they only out-rebounded the Vikings by one in the first half.
Throughout the first half, the Gophers’ offense seemed to be out of sync.
The Gophers committed 10 turnovers in the first half, but Cleveland State only scored six points off of those mistakes.
Communication on the defensive end was a problem for the Gophers in the first half, and head coach Marlene Stollings said the team had to improve going into the second half.
“We were kind of halfway where we were supposed to be instead of all the way there. And you can’t do that against teams that can shoot the ball as well as they can. We need to start moving our feet,” Stollings said.
Stollings said the Gophers allowed Cleveland State to take too many uncontested 3-pointers.
The Gophers went into halftime down 44-41, and Stollings said the team came out of the break with a completely different mindset.
“We could’ve responded a number of ways when we were down, but I thought we remained very poised and confident. [We] stuck to the game plan. We needed to keep the pace moving,” Stollings said.
In the first half, Gophers center Amanda Zahui B. was limited in action, playing only eight minutes.
But in the second half, the 6-foot-5-inch center became a force in the paint.
Zahui B. scored seven points and recorded four rebounds in the first half but found her rhythm after halftime, helping the Gophers go on a 16-0 run to give them a 61-53 lead.
“She gave us a tremendous lift,” Stollings said. “Offensively, we had an incredible size advantage. As long as they stayed man-to-man, we knew we’d attack them at the basket.”
The Gophers continued to push the pace during the game and offensively.
After her subpar first half, Banham finished the game with a game-high 27 points.
“My teammates were running with me. I thought we had great spacing and our posts were running in the lanes,” Banham said.
Stollings said the team will continue the up-tempo pace it runs, but it may have to slow it down at certain points in future games.
“The pace is who we are. And we’re very committed to that,” Stollings said.