'U' women headed for NIT, will face Ball State in opening round
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The University of Minnesota women's basketball team was selected to the 64-team Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) field on Monday night, and is set to host Ball State Friday in the opening round of the event at Williams Arena. Game time for the contest will be announced on Tuesday.
"We are excited to be playing in March and we are looking forward to getting our young team more postseason experience," head coach Pam Borton said of her team's selection to the WNIT. "Our first game is at home and we have an exciting team to watch, so we look forward to seeing our fans back at the Barn on Friday night."
It will be the second WNIT appearance for the Gophers, with their first coming during the 2006-07 season. That year, the Maroon and Gold defeated Illinois-Chicago, 97-54, at Williams Arena in the opening round, before falling on the road at Western Kentucky, 73-57, in the second round.
Minnesota enters this year's tournament with an 18-13 overall record and concluded the regular-season with a 7-9 Big Ten Conference record, which earned it a No. 8 seed for the Big Ten Tournament.
The Gophers are one of the top offensive teams in the Big Ten this season, leading the league in field goal percentage with a .444 mark, while also ranking second in scoring offense with a 70.0 points-per-game average.
Sophomore Rachel Banham, who claimed the Big Ten regular-season scoring title with a 21.0 points-per-game average, was named First Team All-Big Ten by the league's head coaches, while junior Micaëlla Riché was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten after proving to be one of the most improved players in the league. Shayne Mullaney earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
It will be the second meeting all-time between Minnesota and Ball State, with the Cardinals defeating the Gophers, 79-70, in Minnesota's season-opening game of the 1999-2000 season at the Golden Gopher Classic.
Ball State enters the WNIT with an even 15-15 record on the season and posted a 12-4 Mid-American Conference record. The Cardinals fell to Akron in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament.