What do Minnesota’s Rachel Banham and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas have in common?
Besides playing Division I basketball at two Big Ten schools, the two guards rank atop some of the most prolific scorers in the country.
The duo sit at No. 2 and No. 3 in the conference in terms of scoring, respectively –– right behind Ohio State guard Taylor Hill’s 20.6 points per game — and at 6:30 tonight, they will meet at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The No. 8 Lady Lions (15-2, 5-0 Big Ten) will look to add to their nine-game winning streak and remain undefeated at home, while staying on top of the conference standings. However, they are still reminded of the 78-74 win they had with the Golden Gophers in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Big Ten Tournament and know that they will need to play good defense in order to shut down the No. 2 scoring offense in the conference.
“Banham’s playing good basketball. She’s certainly improved on her play from last year as a freshman,” coach Coquese Washington said. “She was fantastic last year as a freshman, but she started playing with a lot more confidence this year than she did last year in her ability to score and make plays.”
Washington also keyed in on Micaëlla Riché, who averages 12.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for Minnesota. The coach said the Lions will need to know where the two scorers are on the floor at all times so they don’t get any open looks.
This may be easier said than done. Banham will be the third player this season that the Lions have faced that ranks in the top 20 nationally in scoring.
Despite being third in the Big Ten in defense –– allowing opponents to average 55.9 points per game –– the Lions have struggled this season to shut down top scorers.
In the Lions’ season-opener against Howard, they allowed Saadia Doyle –– the fourth-highest scorer in the country — to go off for 36 points. It is the most points the team has allowed a player to score all season. Then in early December, the squad allowed Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers, the top scorer in the country, to notch 24 points –– holding her just below her game average.
The Lions won both of those games, but said they need to tighten up defensively to keep another scorer from having a big night.
“We got to have a great team defense, it’s not just one person that’s got to guard [Banham], it’s the five of us,” redshirt senior forward Mia Nickson said. “We all got to be where we’re supposed to be and hopefully get the ball out of her hands. She’s a really great player and what we want to do is limit her touches.”