Gophers strong in January despite tough Big Ten schedule

Womens BBall

Steve Maturen

Womens BBall

Going 6-2 in the month of January amidst the tough Big Ten schedule, Minnesota has a short break until its next game on Feb. 2 âÄì a Monday night battle at home against Michigan State. The Gophers faced their fair share of ups and downs in January, and quickly experienced the strength the Big Ten has to offer this season. Some high points for Minnesota in Jan. were huge wins over Indiana and then-No. 13 Ohio State on the road âÄì the first Gophers victory at Ohio State in team history. Ironically, another high point for Minnesota was escaping the month with only two losses, as the Gophers struggled offensively in their past three games but came out with a 2-1 record. With late-game comebacks at home against Big Ten bottom-feeders Michigan (Jan. 18) and Northwestern (Jan. 25), Minnesota is now tied for fourth in the conference with Purdue with a 6-3 conference mark. âÄúWe settled down in the last four minutes of the game,âÄù Gophers guard Emily Fox said after MinnesotaâÄôs 43-40 win over the Wildcats on Sunday. âÄúThat is something that Coach Borton has been stressing to us, controlling the last four minutes. In the Big Ten it always comes down to the last four minutes of a game. Today, we got the stops and made the shots to win.âÄù Above the Gophers and Boilermakers and tied for second are Michigan State âÄì winners of five straight âÄì and Indiana, both sitting at 7-2 in the Big Ten. With a 71-60 win over Purdue on Sunday and after the Hoosiers shocking 61-52 loss to last place Illinois, Ohio State regained the top position in the Big Ten with a 7-1 mark. Minnesota is now officially past the half-way point of the Big Ten schedule, with nine games left until the Big Ten tournament âÄì held March 5-8 at Conseco Field House in Indianapolis, Ind. Ellis-Milan strong in conference play Leading Minnesota in Big Ten games in scoring, rebounding, field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and minutes per game, forward Ashley Ellis-Milan has played impressive basketball through the first half of conference play. Impressive enough, in fact, to be named Co-Big Ten Player of the Week last week for averaging 18 points and eight rebounds in wins over Ohio State and Michigan. âÄúWhen you watch her (Ellis-Milan) on tape, you see that she is capable of putting up numbers,âÄù Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said after the Gophers win over the Wildcats. âÄúSheâÄôs a good player.âÄù With most teams clamping down on Gophers star-guard Emily Fox this season, the progression of Ellis-Milan has given Minnesota a boost as FoxâÄôs offensive numbers have gone down. Fantastic freshman Now that Big Ten teams are focusing heavily on Ellis-Milan, seen in her 13 point performance on 5-of-15 shooting against Northwestern, more players are needed to step up. Insert: freshman forward Jackie Voigt. Voigt is third on the team in minutes and second in rebounding, starting every game this season for Minnesota. Recently, Voigt came up with a solid effort in the win over Northwestern, playing a team-high 38 minutes, tying for the game-high in rebounds with 9, and hitting two huge free throws to seal the win with 13.5 seconds to play. âÄúThirty-eight minutes for a freshman is amazing,âÄù Gophers coach Pam Borton said of Voigt. âÄúShe was hustling on the offensive boards. Jackie is playing at a higher level than a freshman. I mean, itâÄôs difficult for any player to hit a couple of free throws at the end of a game and she pulled it off.âÄù