Minnesota hopes to rebound against rival

The Gophers have lost their last two games in overtime to Big Ten foes.

Minnesota guard Sari Noga fights for control of the ball in the game against Miami on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Daily File Photo, Lisa Persson

Minnesota guard Sari Noga fights for control of the ball in the game against Miami on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Jack Satzinger

Losing in overtime takes an emotional toll on a player, and doing it again three days later feels even worse.

The Gophers are feeling that sting after dropping their past two games against Nebraska and Indiana in OT, but they have an opportunity to flip the script Thursday night against rival Wisconsin.

“I think every game in the Big Ten is [emotional],” head coach Pam Borton said. “It just comes down to one possession or one less mistake. … We’re so close but yet so far.”

Rachel Banham is a big reason the Gophers have been competitive in close games this season. The star junior guard averaged 31 points in Minnesota’s two most recent games.

Banham has had some help from redshirt freshman center Amanda Zahui B., who routinely tallies double-doubles while controlling the paint.

Still, something appears to be missing for the Gophers.

“Rachel’s playing extremely well,” Borton said. “We’re getting what we need from Amanda … but it’s just getting a little bit more from some of our other kids.”

Senior guard Sari Noga is starting to help address the issue. She tallied a team-high eight rebounds in Minnesota’s last game at Indiana — something Borton said is more problematic than encouraging.

“Sari Noga was our leading rebounder at Indiana, and that’s a problem,” Borton said. “We need our post players being some of our leading rebounders.”

Noga said the coaching staff has started expecting that guards hit the glass more often.

Still, Noga’s primary objective is usually shutting down the opposition’s top player. She helped force standout Nebraska forward Jordan Hooper to just 7-for-24 shooting from the field last week.

Noga said she’s been taking a lot of ice baths this season to stay rested for the Big Ten slate.

A set of fresh legs also helps keep Noga’s jump shot effective. She’s had more looks from outside this season as teams have keyed in on Zahui B. in the paint.

“They’ve gone to double her a lot,” Noga said, “[and] most of the time, I’m on the weak side. … It’s opened up shots for me, and she usually finds me for open shots.”

Zahui B. will have a tough task Thursday against Badgers redshirt junior forward-center Michala Johnson.

Johnson averages a team-high 16.1 points per game to go along with nearly eight rebounds per game. She recently transferred from Connecticut, a team that has won three of the last five NCAA championships.

The Gophers don’t seem fazed and still think they can get past the roadblock and back into the winning column.

“She’s a great post player, but I don’t find her more intimidating than any other post player we’ve faced,” Noga said of Johnson. “We’ve gone against Brittney Griner [of the Phoenix Mercury] before.”