Subway Classic commences regular season for Gophers

Minnesota plays San Francisco on Saturday at Williams Arena.

Emily Wickstrom

After two exhibition blowout wins, Minnesota’s women’s basketball team will finally open its regular season with Division I competition this weekend.

The Gophers will play host in the Subway Classic this Saturday and Sunday. All games will be at Williams Arena.

In the opening games, No. 16 Minnesota will face San Francisco at 3 p.m., with Stanford and Long Island playing a 1 p.m. matchup.

“Our whole team in general is just really excited to start our season,” junior forward Liz Podominick said. “Exhibition games are fun, but we have a great chance to play some great teams.”

If the Gophers get by the Dons, they likely will face Stanford in Sunday’s 3 p.m. championship game.

“We’re taking it one game at a time,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. “San Francisco’s the best team in the country and that’s how we’re going into this weekend.”

Although the 11th-ranked Cardinal graduated three starters, they have reloaded and once again are expected to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament and win the Pac-10 conference for the sixth year in a row.

To stop Stanford, the Gophers likely will have to stop sophomore guard Candace Wiggins, a Kodak All-American who averaged 17.5 points per game last season.

But Minnesota’s depth is significant, giving the Gophers one clear advantage over the Cardinal.

Senior guard Shannon Schonrock and junior post players Lauren Lacey and Natasha Williams were the exhibition-game stars, but any player in Minnesota’s rotation can potentially contribute.

The Gophers will probably go nine or 10 players deep, depending on how many minutes senior guard April Calhoun plays in her first game back from injury.

“I think that we have a lot of different weapons and a lot of people that can do a lot of different things,” Schonrock said. “Each person on our team top to bottom brings something different.”

Borton said she will still be experimenting with her lineup and rotation to find out what combinations of players work best together.

“We want some of our weaknesses exposed early on so they’re not exposed in the Big Ten,” Borton said. “This is a great test for our team and where we’re at.”