Iverson blends with other stars in Big Ten

Aaron Kirscht

Gophers’ center Angie Iverson and Penn State forward Angie Potthoff have more in common than the obvious.
Both are the centerpieces of their team’s respective offenses. Both average double figures in points and rebounds (only one other Big Ten player, Michigan’s Pollyanna Johns, is in their company). And both have reputations as being gritty competitors.
“There’s nothing flashy about (Potthoff),” coach Linda Hill-MacDonald said. “She and (Iverson) are a lot alike. They both just work, work, work.”
Potthoff worked the Gophers for 20 points and eight rebounds on Friday, while Iverson had a balanced 14 points and 14 rebounds. Still, the Lions delivered the Gophers their 30th Big Ten loss in a row, 83-62.
Therein lies the big difference between Potthoff and Iverson: the win column.
Penn State is the two-time defending Big Ten tournament champ, and has flirted with a national ranking all season. A pair of weekend blowouts by the Lions (they beat Ohio State by 17 points on Sunday) evened their record at 4-4 in the conference.
Minnesota, meanwhile, is a woeful 0-9 in the Big Ten and 2-17 overall, losers of its last 10 games.
Just like Potthoff, Iverson has been forced to carry her team at times this season. Both have delivered more often than not, but Iverson isn’t sure she’s become the Gophers “go-to” player, as has Potthoff.
“There are no superstars on this team,” Iverson said, “and Coach knows that. She doesn’t rely on any one player to carry the load. Any pressure I feel comes from inside.”
Halfway home and hurting
This weekend marked the mid-point of the Big Ten season. Michigan State is sitting atop the conference standings, one game ahead of both Wisconsin and Illinois.
The Gophers, of course, are nowhere close to the top. They rank at, or near, the bottom of most offensive and defensive categories.
After Sunday’s loss to Wisconsin, which extended Minnesota’s Big Ten losing streak to 31 — the unofficial conference record — Hill-MacDonald’s frustration was evident. But she said it’s important for her and the team to concentrate on the things they do well.
For starters, the Gophers have cut their scoring margin to minus-11 points through 19 games, well off last season’s pace of minus-18.
And after losing to Illinois last year by a combined 36 points in two games, Minnesota nearly beat the Illini before falling in overtime two weeks ago. But there’s no hiding from the negatives.
Freshman guard Kiauna Burns (2.3 steals per game, fifth in the Big Ten) is the only Gopher other than Iverson who ranks in the top 10 of any category. Minnesota averages 24.5 turnovers per game, five more than any other Big Ten team.
Until those numbers get turned around, the Gophers may have to be content with their reputation as a hard-working team that plays with “a lot of heart” — as opposing coaches often say.