Gophers hope to keep building momentum

After a win and a close loss, Minn. looks toward two more conference games.

by Aleutian Calabay

The Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball team is still looking for positive things to take out of this season. The Gophers have lost seven of their past eight games and virtually assured themselves of missing an at-large NCAA tournament bid. However, that does not mean that Minnesota is playing for next season already, as every starting position needs to be earned by each player, freshmen through seniors. âÄúI think, depending on practice, weâÄôre willing to change the starting lineup every game if we need to,âÄù Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. âÄúI think itâÄôs proved to be a motivator, and players have to earn it. It keeps players from taking anything for granted.âÄù Case in point being Gophers freshman Katie Loberg, who got her first start of the season last Thursday against Penn State. Even though she only played 13 minutes âÄî typical starter Ashley Ellis-Milan still played 28 minutes âÄî the message was still sent that starting roles are up for grabs. âÄúI think that in the past the lineup changes would have been an issue,âÄù senior Katie Ohm said. âÄúBut I feel that we donâÄôt care about that anymore, and itâÄôs all about playing like a team and it doesnâÄôt matter if youâÄôre a starter or not.âÄù While the lineup situation remains in fluctuation, the Gophers have had notable improvement over their last couple of games, beating Penn State on the road and then staying step for step with No. 7 Ohio State before falling late, 64-59. Minnesota (12-13, 5-9 Big Ten) will look to continue that positive momentum as they head to Iowa (14-11, 7-7) for a 7:30 p.m. contest on Thursday. The Buckeyes, winners of three straight, will present a tough challenge for Minnesota, as they have lost only three times at home this season and will be looking to break out of the middle of the pack in the Big Ten, where they are currently fifth. The Hawkeyes have been a tough team to defend all season. They come into the matchup with the second highest scoring average in the Big Ten at 69.3 points per game, trailing only Ohio State, and they lead the conference in made three-pointers per game, averaging 7.64. The Hawkeyes are led by freshman Jaime Printy , who averages a team-high 16.9 points per game, and junior Kachine Alexander, who averages 15.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. âÄúThey [Iowa] are a very well-balanced team; theyâÄôre a well-coached team and theyâÄôre a great offensive team,âÄù Borton said. âÄúThey just have an offensive mindset, and so for us itâÄôs going to be an unbelievable defensive challenge.âÄù Following the matchup at Iowa, the Gophers will continue their road trip as they travel to Indiana (13-12, 6-8) for an 11 a.m. tip on Sunday. The Hoosiers have been another team unable to distinguish themselves one way or another through the Big Ten season as they continually follow up wins with losses, most recently losing two straight, then winning two straight only to go on another two-game losing streak. Junior Jori Davis leads Indiana with 16.8 points per game, the fourth-highest average in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers will also feature senior guard Jamie Braun , who averages 12.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. âÄúThey [the Hoosiers] are a very aggressive team going to the rim,âÄù Borton said. âÄúTheyâÄôre an attacking team and very guard oriented type of team, and again weâÄôre going to be on their home court so have to take the mentality of being road warriors.âÄù