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Strong second half lifts Gophers over Wolverines

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The Minnesota Golden Gophers picked up a needed victory Saturday afternoon at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Scoring 51 points in the second half, Minnesota defeated the Michigan Wolverines 85-69.

Minnesota's (14-9, 3-6) core duo of Rachel Banham and Amanda Zahui rebounded nicely after a rough outing in Wednesday's loss to Iowa. Banham posted 24 points and five assists, hitting 7-of-12 from the floor, including four three-pointers. Zahui picked up her 10th double-double of the season with 24 points and 16 rebounds, adding four blocks.

Zahui has shrugged off consistency problems to close in on a school record in her freshman season, tying the single-season record for blocks with Saturday's performance. The next block she makes will eclipse Janel McCarville's record of 65, set in the 2003-04 season.

A welcome surprise for the Gophers was Mikayla Bailey. Missing the first half of the season with lingering symptoms of mononucleosis, the sophomore from Osseo recorded a career-high 17 points and six assists in 34 minutes of playing time.

Michigan (14-8, 5-4) led 38-34 at halftime before succumbing to Minnesota's unexpected second-half surge. The Gophers hit 17 of 22 shots in the second period, which equates to 77 percent.

Despite a season-low seven turnovers and a season-high 21 offensive rebounds, the Wolverines were unable to keep pace on offense. The Gophers grabbed the lead for good on a Bailey jumper with 16:43 left in the second half and padded their margin for the remainder of the game.

Overall, the Gophers converted 58.5 percent of their shots to end their two-game losing skid.

Siera Thompson paced Michigan with 19 points and six assists. Shannon Smith added 16 points and five assists.

The win serves a needed distraction from increasing discussions about the future of Minnesota head coach Pam Borton. Scoops reported by Star Tribune personnel in the last week suggested she is in danger of losing her job after this season, citing lackluster efforts and declining attendance in recent years.

Minnesota has a week off before their next contest at Williams Arena, hosting Illinois next Sunday.