Minnesota prepares to make NCAA tournament run in season’s final weeks

Senior guard Kelly Roysland came back Sunday from a broken collarbone.

by Paul Cordes

With the Minnesota women’s basketball team regaining its star senior guard, the Gophers will try to finish above .500 in the conference as they close out the final three games of the season.

Minnesota currently sits sixth in the Big Ten with two crucial matchups awaiting the team in the next two weeks.

Junior forward Leslie Knight said finishing up the last few games strong is pivotal for the Gophers’ postseason hopes.

“These last few games are important for us because they’re games that we can win and that we should win,” she said. “They’ll put us over .500 in the conference and would improve our status as far as end of the year ranking and NCAA tournament picks would go.”

In terms of a berth in the NCAA tournament, Minnesota already has a few things going for it. The Gophers have the fourth best Ratings Percentage Index in the Big Ten and 44th-best in the country.

Minnesota also has a road victory over then-No. 25 Nebraska and acknowledgement from officials that a loss to South Dakota State on Jan. 14 should in fact have been a Gophers victory.

Finally, having senior guard Kelly Roysland back in the mix will give Minnesota (14-12 overall, 6-7 Big Ten) some steady senior leadership as tournament time draws closer.

“Any time you have a proven leader like Kelly on the court – who is somebody that can bring some calmness or bring people together when things aren’t going right – is irreplaceable,” coach Pam Borton said.

Roadblock for Buckeyes

The Ohio State women’s basketball team lost a major role player last week against Minnesota in the form of senior guard Brandie Hoskins, which could be a roadblock for the fourth-ranked Buckeyes.

Hoskins, who played the last minutes of her career at Williams Arena last Thursday, tore her Achilles tendon and will watch the rest of the season from the sidelines.

Ohio State coach Jim Foster said Hoskins’ injury is unfortunate, but her misfortune is someone else’s opportunity.

“(Hoskins) is somewhat unique in her skills, and we’ve tweaked a lot of our game to that uniqueness,” he said. “But we still have some creative guards, and we’ll play a little differently, but we’re still a pretty darn good basketball team.”

And having Big Ten and National Player of the Year candidate Jessica Davenport averaging 19 points per game, the Buckeyes (23-1, 12-0) will likely finish the Big Ten schedule undefeated, barring an upset by No. 24 Michigan State this Sunday.

The senior center is the new Big Ten record holder for career blocks with 374 and is also climbing the ranks in the conference record book in career points, rebounds, field goal percentage and field goals.

Foster said Davenport’s large role will probably be increasing a little more now that Hoskins is gone.

“We wanted (Davenport) to get to the foul line more and attack the basket more, and she’s done that for us this season,” he said. “(With Hoskins out) we’ve had to tweak our offense and the ball’s going to be in her hands more often.”

Anderson on fire

The Wisconsin women’s basketball team (18-8, 7-6) moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Big Ten last week due in part to a pair of 20-point games from junior guard Jolene Anderson.

Badgers coach Lisa Stone said Anderson, who was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the second time this season because of her recent hot streak, is allowing herself to shine while leaving some openings for her teammates.

“The way Jolene’s playing right now – let’s just say she has really found some rhythm,” Stone said. “She has gotten a lot of attention and opened up some opportunities for some other players.”