Packed November continues for Gophers with Subway Classic

Minnesota will play a Friday and Saturday series at Williams Arena this weekend.

Mark Heise

As Minnesota’s undefeated women’s basketball team prepares to begin a 10-day, six-game stretch, one thing is certain: It’s not going to be easy.

The Gophers (2-0 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) will start one of their toughest stretches of the season tonight at Williams Arena, taking on Western Carolina at 6 p.m. and face No. 21 Louisville Sunday at 2 p.m.

“We knew going into November that we were going to have 11 games this month,” senior forward Leslie Knight said. “It’s an exciting stretch, and a chance to work on things outside of practice.”

Junior guard Emily Fox said she hoped to have a chance to run a little, and she might get her wish against Western Carolina.

The Lady Catamounts (2-0, 0-0 Southern Conference) average 10.5 steals per game and have forced 58 turnovers over two games using their defense to create offense much like Minnesota does.

Picked to finish second in the Southern Conference this season, Western Carolina’s veteran squad should give the Gophers a true challenge.

But coach Pam Borton said the Gophers were looking forward to it.

“You want to try to take away what their strengths are,” Borton said. “We’re going to try to force them into doing some things that they don’t want to do, whether it’s rebounding or their transition game or shooting.”

Against Louisville (1-0, 0-0 Big East), all Minnesota eyes will be on junior guard Angel McCoughtry. A Kodak All-American as a sophomore, the guard collected 19 double-doubles last season to lead the competitive Big East.

McCoughtry was one of four Cardinals to score 15 or more points in an 81-62 rout of Ball State.

“McCoughtry is one of the top 10 players in the country,” Borton said. “She’s obviously a very strong player, but right now we’re focusing on Western Carolina, we don’t want to look past a team like that.”

On the Gophers’ side, Borton has stressed early on that Minnesota’s half-court offense has been in need of some work. Sophomore center Zoe Harper said this weekend would be a good opportunity to work on the half-court set.

“Aside from the plays themselves, finishing in the paint is a huge part to our offense,” she said. “We need to make more of those easy shots if we’re going to be a successful team. It’s early in the season, but we’re becoming more confident.”