Gophers strive to build on hot start to season

The Gophers will take on Purdue on Thursday at Williams Arena.

Matt Greenstein

Michael Phelps shattered the record for the most gold medals in a single Olympic Games, to which Hall of Fame swimmer Mark Spitz responded, “Records are meant to be broken.”

With a 65-61 home victory against Indiana last Sunday, the Gophers broke a record of their own, starting 16-2 for the first time in program history.

“One of the things we do talk openly about is setting and breaking records,” head coach Marlene Stollings said. “Some people shy away from that. We do not. We think it’s special to be a part of that and make history and leave a legacy. We want our young ladies excited about those things.”

The Gophers host Purdue on Thursday night in a conference clash in which the Boilermakers are looking to stay out of Minnesota record books.

Purdue is currently on a four-game losing streak, and the program hasn’t lost five straight games since 1993.

“They’re a team that is hungry for a win. It’s going to be very important that we’re very sharp and calculated in our approach Thursday night,” Stollings said.

Stollings said the Indiana victory wasn’t the team’s best overall performance, and redshirt sophomore center Amanda Zahui B. said Minnesota will need more to come away from 17-2 Thursday.

“It’s going to be a tough game. They’re not going to give up, and I know they want revenge. We just need to take all the positives we had [the last time we played them] and build on that,” Zahui B. said.

Minnesota holds a 5-1 record against conference opponents, with an average margin of victory of only 7.2 points. Freshman guard Carlie Wagner said Thursday’s game will be no exception.

“It’s a battle every night. You never know who’s going to go off. You have to work really hard for a win,” Wagner said.

One of the Gophers’ most aggressive players has been star forward senior Shae Kelley.

In Minnesota’s New Year’s Day contest against Purdue, Kelley led all scorers with 22 points. She said her teammates were a large part of her success.

The Old Dominion transfer said the Gophers’ team chemistry — on and off the court — is the best she’s ever been a part of.

Zahui B. said the team’s trust in one another has played a big role in its ability to win games.

“We all have confidence in each other, and that’s the most important thing,” Zahui B. said.

Stollings has taken notice to the team’s ability to play together, Wagner said.

“She’s really put the confidence in us that we can do anything we put our minds to,” Wagner said.

Stollings said the team has impressed her, and she’s proud of the way it’s handled adversity throughout the season.

“I think it’s fair to say we’ve exceeded expectations,” Stollings said. “With Rachel [Banham] going down, we weren’t quite sure how we would look or how we would overcome that, and they’ve continued to amaze me in how they’ve come together as a unit.”