Gophers start regular season after rolling in exhibitions

by Mark Heise

The Minnesota women’s basketball team will open its season tonight at home, facing off against California-Riverside at 7 p.m. in Williams Arena.

“It’s exciting,” senior forward Leslie Knight said. “The last two games have been against teams that we’ve kind of taken care of, so practice this week has been a lot more meaningful, going up against tougher competition.”

The Highlanders will be, without a doubt, a better team than the Australian squad the Gophers wiped the floor with last week, as Riverside returns all five starters from last year’s conference championship team.

The Highlanders are led by senior forward Kemie Nkele, who averaged 16 points and nearly nine rebounds last season.

“They won 21 games last year and have a lot of kids back,” coach Pam Borton said. “They’re a very athletic team and very talented, but I think we know what we need to do to succeed against them.”

One of those items will be to stay out of foul trouble. Minnesota has come into the season sporting a very aggressive defensive style which, while impressive, has caused the Gophers to be stuck in foul trouble too often in the two preseason games.

Junior guard Emily Fox fouled out after playing just 20 minutes against Australia, but scored 16 points in that time frame. Expected to be a main contributor offensively, Fox will need to stay on the floor.

“Obviously I want to get my teammates involved, but also I need to look for my shot as well,” Fox said. “Even though I didn’t get many minutes, I think the last game was a confidence booster for that.”