Depth, defense to be tested in exhibition

Aaron Blake

At Wednesday’s Minnesota basketball media day, women’s coach Pam Borton did something a coach is not expected to do – she admitted she knew little about her team’s competition.

This is understandable, however, as the Gophers take on the Dominican Republic National Team in an exhibition game at 7:00 p.m. Thursday at Williams Arena.

“I like these types of games because we don’t have to worry about who we’re playing,” Borton said. “We can just worry about ourselves.”

But worrying about themselves is all the Gophers have been doing for the past two and a half weeks. Borton and her players see this game as a trial run away from practice.

Borton will pay special attention to how her team has picked up on her defensive scheme and how well they can execute it against competition.

“(Borton) really wants us to develop an attitude defensively that (the opposition) is not going to score,” freshman guard/forward Shannon Bolden said. “We need to be a lot more intense defensively.”

Minnesota’s new coach is letting everyone know from the start that her philosophy is much more defensive than the one that brought the team to its NCAA tournament appearance a year ago.

The Gophers will not be trying several different defensive sets to see what works best. Instead, they will use what they have been learning from day one.

“I really want to see our transition defense and our quarter-court defense,” Borton said. “We’re just going to run what we have in (the playbook) right now, and we don’t have all of our defenses in.”

Aside from defense, Borton also has an idea of how deep she wants to go on her bench. Instead of leaving Big Ten Player of the Year Lindsay Whalen and other starters in for 35 to 40 minutes per contest, Borton knows her defensive style requires a bench that goes at least eight or nine players deep.

“The goal for this game is to tweak the lineup and see what works best,” senior guard Lindsay Lieser said. “We have been working on that in practice, but that’s what the first few games are for.”

This is what fans will see in the first half tomorrow, with the team probably going deep into the bench in the second half. This will give Borton a chance to show off her first class of freshmen, including Bolden, Minnesota’s 2002 Ms. Basketball.

Bolden, playing in her first game with her new teammates tomorrow, says her emotions resonate with her team.

“Everyone’s real excited just to see where we’re at as a team offensively and defensively,” Bolden said. “We’re ready to go, and now it’s just a matter of putting it all together.”

Men’s basketball

men’s coach Dan Monson said Wednesday freshman Aliou Kane will redshirt this season.

Kane, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward, has only played organized basketball for three years in the United States.

“To me, it’s a good thing,” Kane said. “I can redshirt and mature for next year. I’ll understand the game much better.”

Monson said he spoke with Kane about the situation Tuesday night but left the final decision to him. But Monson believes redshirting is the best option.

“It’s good for our program because it gives a kid another year to develop, to get used to the quickness of the game at this level,” Monson said.

Aaron Blake covers women’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]