Borton’s former team comes to Williams Arena for a date with Gophers

Opponents are averaging 60.6 points per game against the Catamounts this season.

Paul Cordes

After a third-place finish in Arizona over Thanksgiving weekend, the Minnesota women’s basketball team will once again return home.

The Gophers take on Vermont today at 7 p.m. at Williams Arena.

This game might take on a little extra meaning for coach Pam Borton, as she began her coaching career at Vermont as an assistant coach in 1988, before taking over the head coaching job in 1993.

Borton said she enjoyed her time at Vermont, but she wanted another challenge.

“Vermont was a great university and a great community that had a lot of support for women’s basketball,” she said. “But my goal as a coach was to be able to coach in a program where I can win a national championship.”

While they may not be championship contenders, the Catamounts aren’t a pushover.

Vermont (4-1 overall, 0-0 America East) is coming off a 56-48 win over No. 22 Boston College to win the Rhode Island Invitational championship.

Senior guard Kelly Roysland said she knows the Catamounts are going to give Minnesota a run for its money. But, home games are must-wins, especially to increase NCAA Tournament chances.

“Vermont is going to come in here with a good team,” she said. “We think every game is super important when the committee looks at us for the tournament. They go back and look at every single game, so we really need to get these ones at home.”

The Catamounts will likely go with a four-guard set with only one girl on the floor north of six feet. Vermont is averaging 60.6 points per game, but the defense is one of the most aggressive the Gophers have seen.

The Catamounts are averaging 12.8 steals per game, and their opponents are averaging just 51 points per game.

Minnesota (5-2, 0-0 Big Ten) will need to take advantage of every possession, as well as improve on its free throw shooting, an area that hurt them in the Northern Arizona Tournament.

“Free throws and turnovers are two really key things for us,” Roysland said. “We worked on free throws quite a bit at practice (Monday) and we’ll need to work on taking care of the ball.”

Although free throws could create some problems, rebounding is one area where Minnesota will find itself at an advantage. The Gophers are averaging 44.1 rebounds per game – compared to Vermont’s 35 – and a lot of credit goes to freshman forward Korinne Campbell for that.

Campbell has come off the bench to lead Minnesota in every rebounding category with 32 offensive boards and 30 defensive, equating to 8.9 rebounds per game.

Junior forward Leslie Knight said Campbell has really come up big for Minnesota when it comes to crashing the boards.

“Korinne is an amazing athlete and she is very aggressive,” Knight said. “We know she is going to go after the ball hard and hopefully we can continue to get that out of her.”

Salley practicing again

A stress fracture in freshman guard Breanna Salley’s foot kept her on the sidelines for the first part of the season, but she is back on the floor.

Borton called her situation day-to-day and isn’t sure when Salley will appear in her first game.

“She’s been doing some defensive slides and shooting drills,” Borton said. “We’re just kind of seeing how she feels in the morning and going from there.”