Bench looked to for offense against No. 10 Purdue

Purdue is second in the conference behind the fifth-ranked Buckeyes.

Paul Cordes

With the first nationally ranked women’s team in the country coming to Williams Arena tonight, the Minnesota women’s basketball team is in for a tough time.

The Gophers host No. 10 Purdue at 7 p.m., and senior guard Kelly Roysland will watch her second game from the bench with a broken collar bone.

That has Minnesota (13-9 overall, 5-4 Big Ten) looking elsewhere for the points it struggled to get against Wisconsin last Sunday, when the Gophers scored 57 in the loss.

Minnesota freshman guard Katie Ohm will be looked to for points as she steps in for Roysland in the starting lineup.

After redshirting last season due to a stress fracture in her foot, Ohm has averaged five points per game this season but acknowledged she needs to put up a few more points for the team to stay competitive during the final month of Big Ten play.

“I have big shoes to fill,” she said. “I’m just trying not to do anything outside of my role, and hopefully I can score a few more buckets and do whatever I can to help the team.”

Roysland was in a similar position her freshman year when she filled in for the former Gophers player Lindsay Whalen, when Whalen was injured late in the season.

Ohm said Roysland has offered her a lot of encouragement and is still a positive force on the team.

“She’s talked to me about a lot and is really pushing me,” she said. “She still is always talking and everybody still looks up to her.”

But during the first three months of the season, Ohm was part of a bench that didn’t play a major part offensively.

Minnesota’s bench is averaging 8.4 points per game against conference opponents this season, a number coach Pam Borton said her team has to improve.

“I think since the Big Ten season we’ve gotten a limited amount of production from the bench, and I think they have really got to step up and make plays and be consistent,” she said. “We can’t sit around and wait for them for three or four weeks; they need to step up now and do the best they can.”

And the bench will certainly have some extra minutes to step up and make some plays.

The bench was averaging 10.5 minutes per game in league play, but that number is likely to increase especially after the bench saw over 15 minutes against Wisconsin.

Junior forward Jordan Barnes said she is looking at this as an added opportunity and hopes the rest of the team will too.

“I think we have some added opportunity for us to go out there and step up,” she said. “We’ve talked about having to have a more productive bench to win. We all know that and we’re doing all we can to make that happen.”

The bench will have to be very successful as Minnesota faces off against a very talented Boilermakers team.

Purdue (19-4, 8-1) is in second place in the Big Ten with its only league loss coming against No. 5 Ohio State, which currently sits atop the conference standings.

Borton said this is the beginning of a tough couple of weeks for the Gophers, and they have to have their heads in the right places.

“I think it’s a big game, but we have to be realistic here – we’re playing a very good team ranked in the top 10,” she said. “Win or lose, we have to be focused on the right things especially without (Roysland) so that when she comes back in a couple of weeks, we’ll be a better basketball team.”