Minnesota hosts second straight home tournament as Loberg returns

Katie Loberg missed the Gophers’ first two games. She’s back for the Subway Classic.

Samuel Gordon

Minnesota outlasted Washington State last weekend in double overtime and out-gritted a scrappy Villanova team to claim the Best Buy Classic, all without senior forward Katie Loberg.

Gophers head coach Pam Borton will have Loberg back at her disposal this weekend for the four-team Subway Classic at Williams Arena.

Loberg had her knee scoped and missed the team’s first two games last weekend.

Borton said Loberg “had two very solid days of practice” and is as skilled as ever, but she’s a little behind on conditioning.

Loberg will come off the bench this weekend, Borton said, and Minnesota will need to tinker with its chemistry now that she’s healthy.

That being said, the Gophers’ chemistry looked decent last weekend.

Forward-center Micaella Riche filled in for Loberg and dominated en route to Big Ten Player of the Week honors. She averaged 24.5 points and 10 rebounds in Minnesota’s two wins.

“My teammates did a great job getting me the ball,” Riche said. “I just know if I’m working and if I’m posting up and stuff, I’m going to get the ball.”

Borton said Riche has developed into a go-to player in the post, and she’ll continue to be a focal point offensively.

Besides strong play from Riche and star point guard Rachel Banham, the Gophers probably took more negatives than positives out of the Best Buy Classic.

Borton said turnovers are still an issue. Minnesota had 45 in its first two games.

“I don’t think this time of the year, you’re going to play a great 40 minutes,” Borton said. “You’re still developing as a team.

“But we showed a lot of potential.”

Minnesota will have another chance to showcase that potential this weekend.

The Gophers will host Ohio (1-0) in the first game of the Subway Classic on Saturday.

The winner of that game will play the winner of Nevada-Las Vegas (1-1) and Maine (0-3) for the championship Sunday.

The tournament field isn’t quite as strong as the Best Buy Classic’s, but Borton said the team still views the tournament a challenge.

“We get to see different styles of play and be able to protect our home court,” she said.