Anything possible for women’s hoops team

Matt Anderson

After a Feb. 5 blowout win over Michigan, Minnesota’s women’s basketball team seemed like it was ready to make a run at the Big Ten title and possibly the Final Four.

Minnesota had won seven-straight games, was on its way to the No. 11 spot in the national polls and controlled its own destiny in the chase for the Big Ten Championship.

Just a week ago, even making it out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament seemed like a crapshoot.

The Gophers had their winning streak snapped Feb. 9 with a 23-point loss at Michigan State, then lost by 32 at Purdue, suffered a 21-point defeat at home against Ohio State and then lost their fourth straight at Wisconsin.

This week? Any postseason scenario seems believable.

The team that was crushed in three-straight games and then lost to the ninth-place team in the Big Ten rebounded with a pair of home wins – a relatively easy 65-58 win over Indiana on Thursday and a 38-point victory against Northwestern on Sunday.

These wins don’t negate the four-game slide; but the four-game losing streak isn’t indicative of what Minnesota can do in the postseason.

In the midst of her team’s slide, coach Pam Borton inserted sophomore forward

Natasha Williams into the starting lineup in place of Liz Podominick, and junior guard Kelly Roysland for April Calhoun, both moves made in a search for more offense.

Even with the move of Roysland into the starting lineup, Borton still has been fiddling with her rotation in the backcourt. Calhoun, Emily Fox, Brittney Davis and Katie Alsdurf have seen their minutes fluctuate from game to game, even at this late juncture of the season.

But over the past two games, it seems as though Borton has found more of a set rotation with her guards. And the result has been two wins.

Even so, the fact remains that Minnesota did drop four of its last six regular season games, three by blowout margins and one to a conference bottom-feeder.

The culprits in those games were defense and scoring depth – strengths for the Gophers during their past two NCAA Tournament runs.

Michigan State torched Minnesota for 84 points and Ohio State scored 76 against the Gophers. The points-against in the losses to Purdue and Wisconsin were respectable, as was the defense in the past two wins. But the defense hasn’t consistently been shut-down caliber.

And over the Big Ten season, only junior forward Jamie Broback has been a consistent scorer for Minnesota. At 14.2 points per game, she’s the only player averaging double figures for the Gophers in Big Ten play.

Roysland and Williams have had games this season in which they’ve put up points, but not consistently. There’s no scoring tandem to match the Lindsay Whalen-Janel McCarville or McCarville-Broback combinations.

However, there is talent to make a deep run in the NCAA and Big Ten tournaments.

But they still need a second scorer and better defense to make it.

– Matt Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected]