Gophers hoping to hold up their end of the deal

Last seasonâÄôs Big Ten/ACC challenge didnâÄôt go the way of the Big Ten conference. As the teams matched up to play a year ago, the ACC won 8-of-11 matchups, including Virginia TechâÄôs 68-62 win against MinnesotaâÄôs womenâÄôs basketball team. This year, the Gophers and the conference are looking for redemption. âÄúThat makes me kind of mad,âÄù junior guard Katie Ohm said . âÄúHopefully the Big Ten can show how weâÄôve improved over the last year.âÄù Minnesota (7-1 overall) wonâÄôt get a crack at the same team, but the Gophers will get home-court advantage this year, as Boston College comes to Williams Thursday to represent the ACC. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. âÄúItâÄôs a great thing for the conference, this Big Ten/ACC challenge,âÄù junior guard Brittany McCoy said. âÄúI know last year the Big Ten didnâÄôt hold up their side of the bargain, but weâÄôre excited to play some big competition here at Williams.âÄù Boston College (5-1) has seen success so far this season, its only setback coming in a 48-point loss to Notre Dame at home. Junior guard Mickel Picco averaged 22.5 points per game over two games last week and comes to Minnesota as the reigning ACC player of the week. But overall, Picco may not be the GophersâÄô biggest threat. Sophomore center Carolyn Swords averaged 20.3 points and 9.3 rebounds over the first four games and has shot 70 percent from the floor this season. Minnesota will have to keep the 6-foot-6 Swords away from the basket to be successful. But the Gophers have proven they can score as well. Senior guard Emily Fox leads the team averaging 15.4 points per game, while Ohm adds 14.6 per game. Minnesota has six other players averaging six or more points per game and the Gophers have taken advantage recently, putting up 156 points in their last three halves of basketball. âÄúWeâÄôre sitting in a really good spot right now,âÄù coach Pam Borton said. âÄúO bviously we havenâÄôt reached our peak, but I like where weâÄôre at right now.âÄù The Gophers are, of course, still a defensive team, but an offense made up primarily of four perimeter players and one true post has opened up the floor more for the team this season, and may be adding to MinnesotaâÄôs offensive success. âÄúI like it a lot better than what we did last year,âÄù McCoy said. âÄúLast yearâÄôs system, whether it was us not understanding it fully or not, left us doing a lot of standing around. This year thereâÄôs more movement and more space for us to get some open shots.âÄù In this system, Ohm, the teamâÄôs leading three-point shooter with 26, has been playing the âÄúfourâÄù, generally thought of as a power forward. It allows Ohm, along with her usual perimeter play, to set some screens and roll off to find an opening. âÄúI like playing there,âÄù Ohm said. âÄúItâÄôs a different feel to the game. I set a lot of screens, but if I set a good screen I can usually get open too.âÄù Riding a seven-game winning streak with three games remaining until conference play, Borton said these final games would be important to keep the confidence high. But as the Challenge games tip off around the country tonight, it wouldnâÄôt be surprising to see a little conference pride play a role as well.