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Gophers dial long-distance win over Auburn

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Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Pam Borton emphasized a need for more scorers after a 5:26 scoring drought faltered their hopes of beating UCLA on Friday afternoon.

The Gophers found that help Sunday afternoon, giving them a comfortable 67-54 win over Auburn at Williams Arena.

Junior guard Rachel Banham and freshman center Amanda Zahui provided their usual contributions, with Banham scoring 22 points and Zahui getting 16 points and six blocks. Minnesota's "stumper" against the Auburn defense was Sari Noga, who hit three triples to give the offense an extra dimension.

"She's a great three point shooter and she didn't hesitate which her allowed her to play confidently and score those points when we really needed it," Banham said. "She made things more difficult on Auburn because they either had to guard me or Amanda which allowed Sari to get open and eventually it was tough for them to figure out who to stop."

A degree of endurance also aided the Gophers (10-3), who did not make a field goal in the first 6:02 of the game as they were slow to pick up on the press defense of the Tigers (9-4).

Auburn's response was faint, building a slim 9-6 lead in that span. Minnesota stayed in front permanently after one of Noga's threes broke a 25-25 tie with 3:11 left in the first half.

Perimeter shooting for the Gophers created a key separation from the Tigers in a game with 45 combined turnovers. Minnesota hit seven of 15 three-pointers, while Auburn made just 2 of 14.

"When a team is in a 1-2-2 zone you have to reverse the ball and try to get some scores on the backside of the defense," said Minnesota head coach Pam Borton. "Almost everyone scored and that little bit of contribution from everyone makes things so much easier for Amanda and Rachel."

Zahui's adjustments inside were just as crucial. Missing her first three shots in the first half, Zahui made five of seven shots in the second half, as her ability to post-up and recognize passing plays increased.

As the freshman from Sweden continues her comprehension lessons in the American version of basketball, her work ethic is shifting almost as swiftly as her performance against the Tigers.

"They ran a couple of sets for me. I started working earlier and earlier than I have previously," Zahui said.

Senior wing Tyrese Tanner led Auburn with 15 points. Senior center Peyton Davis added 11, but did not score at all in the second half.

Banham crossed the 1,500-point milestone in Sunday's win, becoming the eighth Minnesota player in school history to reach that figure. She is 22 points away from passing Kiara Buford for seventh place on the Gophers career scoring list. The Gophers conclude their non-conference slate of games next Sunday, when they host Oakland.

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