Gophers need to take care of business on the road tonight

Less than two weeks ago the Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball team was riding high after junior Brittany McCoyâÄôs last-second 3-pointer to beat Michigan on the road, bringing the Gophers within one game of first place in the Big Ten standings. But that momentum quickly slipped away for Minnesota, as two straight losses have dropped the Gophers to a dangerous fifth place in the conference standings âÄî just a half game out of sixth place. What might have been the worst week in the Big Ten season for Minnesota included a home loss to first-place Ohio State last Thursday and a road loss to last-place Northwestern on Monday. Both losses hurt the GophersâÄô chance of getting a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament next weekend âÄî given to the top-five teams in the conference âÄî and the loss to the struggling Wildcats stains MinnesotaâÄôs NCAA tournament resume, something that Gophers coach Pam Borton said the team is keeping track of. âÄúI think we keep up with whatâÄôs happening and whoâÄôs doing well; I think they all are pretty aware of that,âÄù Borton said. âÄúThatâÄôs important for them to know where weâÄôre at and what needs to happen at the end of the season.âÄù However, with two games to go against Michigan State and Illinois before the end of the regular season, the Gophers have a chance to strengthen their NCAA tournament chances and solidify a top-five seeding in the conference tournament as well. Minnesota controls its own destiny to get a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament, being a half-game up on Indiana and owning the tie-breaker after its 70-62 win over the Hoosiers in Jan. Making the NCAA tournament may not be as simple with the Gophers up-and-down play throughout the Big Ten season. But right now for Minnesota, the task at hand is a tough road match-up on Thursday with Michigan State. âÄúGetting ready for Michigan State is all we can do,âÄù Borton said. âÄúWe have to bounce back from this and finish strong.âÄù While the Spartans are tied for second-place in the Big Ten, they are also coming off a road-loss at Wisconsin and have previously been beaten by the Gophers in a 60-44 loss on Feb. 2 in Williams Arena. Minnesota was able to control Michigan State 6-foot-9-inch junior center Allyssa DeHann in the Feburary meeting as she scored only two points on 0-of-9 shooting, while Gophers junior forward Ashley Ellis-Milan scored 17 points on the night. But Ellis-Milan has struggled offensively in the GophersâÄô past two losses against other lengthy defenders, scoring just 15 total points. Having MinnesotaâÄôs players hit more outside shots should help the Gophers score more inside, according to Borton. Minnesota has also been out-rebounded in eight of its last nine games, and things wonâÄôt get easier against Michigan State âÄì who out-rebounds its opponents by nearly nine rebounds per game to lead the conference.