Gophers will try for seventh tournament title

Paul Cordes

Coming off a record six straight titles in its own early season tournament, the Minnesota women’s basketball team will go for seven this weekend.

The Gophers will host the Subway Classic at Williams Arena this weekend and play Princeton at 3 p.m. on Saturday and depending on the outcome of that game, will play either Middle Tennessee State or Maine on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Minnesota is coming off two straight opening-season wins against Northern Iowa and Charlotte. The young team has been held its own and won against quality teams, which coach Pam Borton said she is pleased with.

“I think after two games, I’m most surprised with the adversity we have faced and how we’ve overcome it for having a young basketball team,” she said.

More adversity may come against one of the 2005-06 tri-champions of the Ivy League conference. The Princeton Tigers (1-0 overall, 0-0 Ivy League) are a preseason favorite to take home the conference title.

Led by junior forward Ariel Rogers, who is coming off a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds), the Tigers will give Minnesota a tough time down low.

With Minnesota’s two post players often finding themselves in foul trouble – freshman center Zoe Harper and freshman center Ashley Ellis-Milan both fouled out against Charlotte – Rogers could create problems down low.

And with two other forwards on the north side of six feet for Princeton, the Gophers (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will have to continue to pressure the ball like they have in their previous two outings.

Senior guard Kelly Roysland said the pressure her team is putting on the ball will be its strength going into the game.

“I think the way we’re playing defense and the turnovers we’re creating are big,” she said. “I think we have a lot of intensity on that end, which transfers over into our offense.”

An increasingly potent part of that offense has been redshirt freshman Katie Ohm, who is averaging 12 points per game and has played a clutch role in both of the Gophers’ opening games.

Ohm said she is starting to feel more comfortable shooting the ball and will continue to improve as the season moves on.

“After the first couple games pass, you kind of move into a comfort zone,” she said. “As the season goes on, you find out what is expected of you and what you expect from yourself. I think it will become easier as the season progresses.”

Middle Tennessee is 0-2 this season, the worst of any of the teams in the tournament; but the Blue Raiders are no pushovers.

Preseason Sun Belt Conference player of the year, Blue Raiders senior guard Chrissy Givens, has yet to sit on the bench this year, playing 80 minutes out of a possible 80. She has 31 points in those two games, one of which was a four-point loss to No. 1 Maryland.

Maine could potentially be Minnesota’s second opponent, and is coming off of a 20-point victory over William and Mary. The Black Bears had just two players in double digits in their first game and will be starting two freshmen this weekend.

Borton said the Gophers will take a look at some tapes, but her focus is still on her team and what it needs to do be successful.

“We just got to go out and play hard,” she said. “I think here in the next few games we just have to worry about us and ourselves getting better.”