Women’s basketball team sees little improvement

Aaron Kirscht

It’s doubtful that the Gophers women’s basketball team ever expected to go into the Big Ten tournament, which begins this weekend, as a favorite. Then again, maybe they did.
“I didn’t know where’d we be,” Coach Linda Hill-MacDonald said. “As we went into the season, there were a lot of question marks.”
Many of those questions were answered — some earlier than others — during the regular season, which ended Sunday with an anticlimactic 78-42 loss at Michigan.
For starters, the Gophers were unable to overcome the slew of injuries before and during the season. Second, Minnesota’s four wins in its last 44 games is indicative of a serious talent shortage. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the team showed few visible signs of improvement.
“I had hoped that we’d be in a better position than at the end of last season,” Hill-MacDonald said, “so it’s disappointing to not have progressed from where we were a year ago.”
For a team that’s been mired in such a colossal slump, the Gophers have showed a knack for remaining optimistic. Hill-MacDonald said that if her team has learned anything from this season, it’s strength of mind. Like her players, she has hope for the future.
“We’re going to be excited about next year,” Hill-MacDonald said. “We’ll be healthier, we’ll be at full numbers and (the players) know what needs to be done in the offseason.”
Hand it over, no one gets hurt
When Angie Iverson exploded for 19 rebounds against Northwestern in the Gophers’ final home game last season, many saw a sign of things to come.
Iverson came through big time, wrapping up the Big Ten rebounding title with a 12.1 average. Penn State’s Angie Potthoff finished second with 11 rebounds per game.
Potthoff also tied Purdue’s Jannon Roland for the conference scoring title, making her the favorite for the Big Ten Player of the Year award.
But Roland, who led the Boilermakers to a surprise share of the Big Ten title, will likely get some votes, as will Illinois’ Ashley Berggren and Wisconsin’s Keisha Anderson.
And then there’s Iverson, who was twice overlooked for the conference player of the week award, although her statistics were superior to the eventual winners. And the snubbing of her star player rubbed Hill-MacDonald the wrong way.
“If you’re truly going to pick the player of the year,” she said, “look at the contributions she’s made to her team, and the consistency with which she’s performed. If you really do that, Angie Iverson has to be in that mix.”
Hill-MacDonald said Iverson should at least be named first-team All-Big Ten, but added that a bevy of players will be jockeying for position in the voting.
“I think it’s harder to pick the first team this year than it has been in the past in terms of who are the standouts,” she said. “But Angie is one of them, a standout player from game to game.”
In Hill-MacDonald’s opinion, Potthoff is the player of the year, but she admitted, “I’ll vote for my own player number one.”
Carol Ann Shudlick was the last Gophers player to be named Player of the Year, in 1995.
Hoop funk
ù Iverson’s 12.1 rebounding average is the highest for a Gophers player since the 1984-85 season, when Laura Coenen averaged 12.2. Her 315 rebounds currently ranks sixth in the Minnesota record book for most rebounds in a season.
ù Purdue, Michigan State and Illinois shared the Big Ten title with identical 12-4 records. But Purdue earned the top seed in the conference tournament this weekend on the strength of their 3-1 record against the co-champs.
ù Minnesota led the Big Ten in only one statistical category: 3-point field goal defense. The Gophers allowed Big Ten opponents to shoot only 27 percent from behind the arc.