Big Ten tourney title within Gophers’ reach

Sophomore guard Katie Ohm has been steadily improving this season for the Minnesota women’s basketball team.

In the last 11 games, that are the only 11 Ohm has started this season, the three-point threat has become even more accurate, hitting 30-of-66 from beyond the arc, and putting up 17 points against Michigan in the last game of the regular season.

Ohm’s emergence as a legitimate scoring threat this season may give her more looks as the Gophers head in to the Big Ten tournament, where Minnesota will be in need of a third scorer.

The fourth-seeded Gophers play Michigan State at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Conseco Field House in Indianapolis. Should they win, they would have the opportunity to play Saturday and possibly Sunday in the championship game.

But in order to have the success needed to reach that championship, Minnesota will need extra scorers, like Ohm, to step up.

Coach Pam Borton said her team has shown improvement in that area.

“A lot of our players have improved throughout the year, and that’s what you want to see as a coach. We feel very pleased with where we are right now.”

Ohm is now averaging eight points per game, while sophomore forward Ashley Ellis-Milan has managed to contribute 10.3.

With these two putting up points alongside the consistent output of senior forward Leslie Knight and junior guard Emily Fox, the Gophers should be in good shape facing Michigan State.

Those four players scored 120 of Minnesota’s 155 points during their two games against the Spartans.

Meanwhile, the Gophers held Michigan State’s leading scorer, sophomore center Allyssa DeHaan, to just 16 points over two games.

But sophomore guard Brittany McCoy said the team wasn’t going to take Michigan State for granted, especially considering last season.

“It will be a challenge. I know we lost to them last year in the Big Ten tournament,” McCoy recalled. “We played her really well in the regular season, and she came out strong in the tournament and lit us up. We aren’t going to overlook them.”

Should the Gophers get past the Spartans, the next game would be against Ohio State, Wisconsin or Illinois, with Big Ten players of the year Jantel Lavender (Ohio State) and Jolene Anderson (Wisconsin) leading the way.

Ohm made a quick decision when asked which of these players she would rather face.

“I think I’d rather have to face Jolene,” she said. “Jolene’s a great player, but I feel that we do a good job guarding her. We can guard Lavender too, but I think she’s maybe been more consistent than Jolene.”

The one team Minnesota was unable to beat this season, Iowa, would only face the Gophers if both teams made it to the championship game.

But that was the one team McCoy said she wanted to play.

“Personally, that’s probably the one team in the Big Ten that I’d like to face again,” she said. “We’ve shown that we can play with them, and I think if we could just play them again, we’d get them this time.”