Gophers face two more tough matchups

Minnesota hopes to win only its second road game this season at Penn State.

Aleutian Calabay

The road ahead does not offer a bright outlook for the struggling Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball team. Coming off a crushing loss to Michigan, the Gophers now head to Penn State at 6 p.m. Thursday to try to end their six-game losing streak. Minnesota has won just one road game all season. The Nittany Lions (15-8 overall, 7-6 Big Ten) are currently on a four-game losing streak and will be just as hungry as the Gophers (11-12, 4-8) to get back in the win column. Even though Minnesota has not followed its recent history of being a top Big Ten competitor this season, the Gophers can still go into the game against Penn State knowing they have won five times in a row over Penn State, including a 56-48 win to open the Big Ten season in early December . âÄúI think the way weâÄôve practiced the last couple of days has given the kids a lot of confidence,âÄù Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. âÄúWe put in the Penn State film of the last time we played them and our kids actually saw us playing well. Any little thing that can give them confidence right now is good.âÄù Minnesota has taken special pride in its defense all season long. Keeping other teamsâÄô scoring totals low was what allowed the Gophers to remain competitive in a lot of games early in the season, despite their offensive struggles. However, during the losing streak the Gophers have given up an average of 69.8 points per game, a large increase over the 58 points per game they gave up before the skid. Even though the Gophers still lead the conference in takeaways at 9.65 points per game, they know they will need to step up their defensive effort in order to get back to winning. âÄúWeâÄôve been taking a lot of quick shots and a lot of the points weâÄôre giving up are in transition,âÄù Minnesota sophomore Kiara Buford said. âÄúWeâÄôve been working on picking up our transition defense as well as executing on offense to eliminate some of those easy baskets.âÄù Following ThursdayâÄôs game at Penn State, the Gophers will come home to face No. 7 Ohio State hoping to avenge an 81-58 loss on Jan. 28. Leading the way for the Buckeyes is the duo of sophomore Samantha Prahalis and junior Jantel Lavender . Lavender leads the Big Ten in scoring with 20.8 points per game and is second in rebounding with 10.3 boards per game. Prahalis leads the conference in assists, averaging 7.6 per game to go along with 16.5 points per game. The matchup will also feature BuckeyesâÄô freshman guard Taylor Hill . The Minnesota high school leading scorer (both boys and girls) returns to Minneapolis for the first time since joining Ohio State. Hill has started all 26 games so far this season, averaging 7.8 points . âÄúThey [the Buckeyes] are a great basketball team,âÄù Borton said. âÄúWeâÄôre looking forward to playing them again with a full roster and seeing where we are. Right now weâÄôre more worried about getting ourselves back on track than are anybody else.âÄù