With regular season title unlikely, Minnesota sets attention to tournament

The Gophers still have a shot for a better seed as they host Wisconsin.

With two weeks remaining, chances are slim for the Minnesota women’s basketball team to pick up a regular season conference title.

But according to sophomore guard Brittany McCoy, that doesn’t mean the Big Ten Tournament title is out of reach.

The Gophers (18-9 overall, 9-8 Big Ten) will continue to jockey for position with the tournament nearing, as they host Wisconsin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Williams Arena.

Despite the advantage of holding one of the top three seeds, McCoy said where Minnesota winds up going into the tournament does not matter.

“We’re going to try to take care of our business and worry about the other stuff when we get to it,” she said. “All three of our games are winnable, but I don’t think it matters where we end up.”

Wisconsin (14-11, 7-8) has not lived up to expectations this year, but still is a formidable opponent with dangerous offensive options.

And while McCoy was able to control leading-scorer senior guard Jolene Anderson earlier this year, the Gophers must realize that she is not the Badgers’ only weapon.

Coach Pam Borton said that Anderson wasn’t the only player on her team’s defensive radar, mentioning senior guard Janese Banks as well.

“They’ve got a lot of good weapons playing nine players, and each player has the green light to try to make a play,” she said. “Banks has always played well against us, and we’ll need to try to slow her down along with Anderson.”

Banks scored 20 points against Minnesota last time, and has averaged 14 per game to compliment Anderson’s 20.7 per contest.

But the Gophers have had success offensively as well this year, especially against the Badgers.

Last time the teams met, junior guard Emily Fox scored 29 points, senior forward Leslie Knight added 20, and McCoy contributed 14 in the win, helping Minnesota become the second-highest scoring team in the conference. The Badgers are currently first.

The Gophers’ ability to have three players record big numbers offensively for them throughout the season has been a huge factor to their success, but there is still a problem. Aside from Knight and Fox, Minnesota never knows who their third scorer will be.

“We haven’t had consistency from that group of kids, so it’s had to be a different person every night,” Borton said. “So that’s really what we’ve been looking for this season, someone who can consistently step up and be that third scorer, but that hasn’t happened.”

Who the third scorer will be won’t be as big of a deal as long as the Gophers get the production from someone. If Minnesota can find that extra push for the remainder of the season and into postseason, Fox said the team should be in good shape.

“At this point it doesn’t really matter,” she said. “We definitely need those points from someone, and everyone has shown that they’re capable. We’ve been fortunate because every game someone else has stepped up.”