MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Gophers women’s basketball team played its first game as a ranked team since 2006 on Sunday afternoon, and it was a big game at that, with Maryland coming in ranked No. 12 and coming off a Final Four run a year ago.

The Marlene Stollings era has barely begun at Minnesota – and there’s still plenty of time for it to crash and burn, this being Minnesota and all – but it’s a heck of a good start. In fact, it was tied for the best start ever by a Gophers women’s basketball coach. She couldn’t quite break the tie Sunday, but considering they played as well as they did against a team that was in the Final Four a year ago, it was a heck of a good performance.

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“We’re certainly disappointed in the loss,” Stollings said. “(But) very proud of our kids for competing with a team that’s coming off of a Final Four run. Obviously a very high-caliber team.”

The takeaway: Even in the loss, it showed just how much progress this Gophers team appears to have made in just over half a season with Stollings. And how good they can be in the second half.

“It’s enormous,” Stollings said. “For us to come out here and compete with this team shows and says a lot about our young ladies. The resolve, the grit, the toughness, the competitiveness. This team is solid. And we’ve got about a 24-hour period that we’ll be upset about this loss and then we’ll get right back to work.”

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Amanda Zahui B. continued her stellar play against Maryland with 26 points and 15 rebounds. It was almost enough to lead the Gophers to a win.

“We obviously proved to everybody that we can play on a high level,” she said. “We’ve just got to keep on grinding.”

The Gophers are now 14-2, ranked once again for the first time since 2006, and doing it all with a first-year head coach and without their best player, Rachel Banham.

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“I feel like we’re just getting started,” Stollings said.