Another Big 12 foe for Gophers

by Paul Cordes

The Minnesota women’s basketball team is coming off a win against No. 25 Nebraska and is headed to Ames, Iowa to take on its second straight Big 12 opponent.

The Gophers matchup against Iowa State is their last until Dec. 22, and certainly will not be an easy one.

Minnesota (8-2 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) has a significant amount of momentum after knocking off a ranked foe on the road for the first time since January 2005, when it upset Purdue on its home court. Coach Pam Borton said she likes where her team is at.

“We’re taking it one day at a time,” she said. “We’ll continue getting better every day and working as hard as we can. We’re 8-2. If we keep going like we are, I see good things ahead of us.”

Both teams are in a similar position coming into tonight’s game and both teams are pretty evenly matched.

The Cyclones (6-1, 0-0 Big 12) are riding a three-game win streak, which includes an 80-74 victory at Iowa, and their four returning starters should be anxious to avenge their 66-61 loss to the Gophers at Williams Arena last year.

Iowa State will not be afraid to shoot three-pointers, as it’s shooting 36.5 percent from behind the arc.

But, after playing Nebraska, a team that took 28 three-pointers, Minnesota will be familiar with a perimeter-based team. And after the Huskers made just five out of those 28 three-point attempts, freshman center Ashley Ellis-Milan said defense is still the Gophers’ strong suit and focus.

“Our big thing right now is defense and rebounding,” she said. “We played well against Nebraska, but we’re not settling.”

Freshman guard Brittany McCoy played the most pivotal role on defense in Lincoln, but with three Cyclones averaging in double figures, Minnesota will need a good defensive game as a whole.

Senior guard Kelly Roysland said she thinks Minnesota is ready for the tough test on the road.

“I think we proved we can play well on the road, but Iowa State is going to be a tough challenge,” she said. “They’ve got a great facility and a great crowd. We’re going to go in there and have to play hard to get the win.”

And the Iowa State crowd could be a big issue for Minnesota’s young team. Although the Gophers played their first non-neutral away game in Nebraska on Tuesday, the 2,683 fans in Lincoln are no match for the nearly 9,500 the Cyclones are averaging at their home games.

The Hilton Coliseum will be loud and hostile and has the potential to rattle the nerves of the majority of the young team, which has yet to be in such an environment.

“It’s all up in the air right now, but I think we’ll be fine,” Ellis-Milan said. “Other than Kelly (Roysland), no one has really experienced anything like this, so it’ll be something new and show us where we are.”

Roysland is the only player with significant playing time in previous seasons and said Purdue and Penn State are a couple of the toughest places she has played. But she said her advice to her young teammates is to worry about taking care of their own business before anything else.

“We’re just going to try not to worry about it,” Roysland said. “It’s fun to play at a place with a ton of fans and to be able to silence a crowd.”