Back on track and rolling, Minnesota heads west to take on Santa Clara

David McCoy

After a shaky start to the season that included a loss to unranked Washington in overtime, Minnesota’s women’s basketball team is on track.

Minnesota (7-1) has won six straight and is a near-sure bet to make it seven Saturday, when it tips off against Santa Clara (3-3) at Leavey Center in Santa Clara, Calif.

And though she said she doesn’t care about a winning streak, coach Pam Borton expects nothing less.

“We don’t look at winning streaks,” Borton said. “Every game we go into, we expect to win. That’s just where our program is.”

And though the status of No. 16 Minnesota’s program is at its highest level, Santa Clara’s schedule shows that it isn’t afraid to face tough teams.

The Broncos are playing their third top-25 team in just their seventh game of the season. They lost to both then-No. 13 Michigan State and then-No. 3 Georgia back to back earlier this season.

That means Santa Clara might not be as fearful of Minnesota as other nonconference teams the Gophers have faced.

“They’ve played teams like us before,” point guard Shannon Schonrock said. “So we can’t take them lightly, whether or not they’re pumped up to play us.”

Like the past two teams the Gophers have played on the road, the Broncos are known for their three-point shooting, averaging 25.2 three-point attempts per game while making an average of 9.7.

But Minnesota has done especially well defending against the long ball this season, holding Creighton to 1-of-4 and Wisconsin-Green Bay to 2-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc.

And since it’s been working – both games resulted in wins – Minnesota will have the same objective Saturday.

“When we play teams like that, we have to focus on covering our own player more and not help so much,” Schonrock said. “But if we do help, it has to be quick, and then we have to recover quick.”

Minnesota’s success defending the perimeter surely makes the team confident heading into the game.

But not overconfident.

“We have to be aware of the fact that they are playing talented teams and aren’t going to just roll over and die if we get ahead in the first half or make a run,” Minnesota forward Shannon Bolden said. “The worst thing we could do is look ahead to (the game against No. 1) LSU (on Tuesday) and then get tripped up by Santa Clara.”