Gophers to get test at No. 25 Nebraska

by Aaron Kirscht

The Gophers women’s basketball team will travel to Lincoln, Neb., tonight for a nonconference game against the No. 25 Cornhuskers.
Coach Linda Hill-MacDonald said it’s rare to play a nonconference game during the Big Ten season, but scheduling difficulties resulting from the holidays and the University’s quarter schedule forced them to squeeze in the game this week.
This is the team’s second game against a nationally ranked opponent: It lost its previous contest to then-No. 24 Stephen F. Austin, 80-63, in the first round of the UNLV Tournament last month. In that game, the Gophers were put away by a 24-5 run midway through the game.
The Huskers have also shown a propensity to run this season, building their 9-1 record on their defensive intensity and all-around quickness. Their full-court press is likely to trouble the Gophers, who have been mostly unable to play five-on-five in practice.
“Inexperienced players tend to see pressure coming, pick the ball up and look for pass options,” Hill-MacDonald said. “If we do that against Nebraska we’re going to be in trouble.”
The added pressure of playing a ranked team, it seems, would also give the Gophers fits. But Hill-MacDonald said the team doesn’t spend much time thinking about it.
“The bottom line is you have to execute well, regardless of whether they’re ranked or not,” she said. “If you don’t play well, you can make an unranked team look like a national champion. If you do play well, you can make a ranked team look pretty average.
“We just have to play smart. We have to handle the pressure, because the more you don’t handle it, the more they put on.”
Who needs enemies?
Freshman Andrea Seago has been sporting some new hardware on the court recently, thanks to an elbow in the face from teammate Angie Iverson.
Seago suffered a nasal fracture in the Gophers’ afternoon shoot-around before their Dec. 30 game against Michigan. But after a quick trip to the doctor, she was outfitted with former men’s player Townsend Orr’s maroon protective face mask and played 15 minutes of the game that evening.
Seago has been fitted with her own clear mask which will be shipped to Nebraska in time for tonight’s game.
“You can’t see anything,” she said about the mask.
Surgery for a deviated septum will occur at season’s end.
The Gophers have also been slowed by an injury to junior point guard Jamie Ellis. She was diagnosed with a stress fracture during the summer, but the rigors of playing more than 30 minutes per game in the preseason has cut her minutes considerably. Ellis logged a season-low 11 minutes in the Big Ten opener against Iowa.
“She played hard,” Hill-MacDonald said. “Now she’s experiencing the residual effects of that.”
It’s raining men, hallelujah
Several male players have been cleared to practice with the team. Hill-MacDonald didn’t name the new players, but said she is looking forward to having extra players with which to work.
“This will allow us to do some different things in practice,” she said. “I like to put seven or eight on defense and have double teaming everywhere, but we haven’t had the numbers.”
Hill-MacDonald said the players came over from the men’s tryouts. (Per league regulations, they won’t suit up for games.)
“I don’t really know what their backgrounds are,” Hill-MacDonald said, “but they’re probably intramural guys who just like to play some pick-up in the gym.”