Minnesota aims to cut down on turnovers

The team has been struggling with turnovers, which has led to losses.

Gophers assistant womens basketball coach Fred Chmiel joined Marlene Stollings coaching staff in late May 2014. Chmiel will coach aganist his former team, Penn State, today.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Gophers assistant women’s basketball coach Fred Chmiel joined Marlene Stollings’ coaching staff in late May 2014. Chmiel will coach aganist his former team, Penn State, today.

Matt Greenstein

Just more than a year ago, Penn State assistant coach Fred Chmiel watched the Lady Lions trample the Gophers 83-53.

Chmiel — now an assistant coach at Minnesota — will watch the two teams play again on Wednesday from the opposite sideline.

“We all are here right now. We all are Gophers,” redshirt sophomore Amanda Zahui B. said jokingly.

Last time the teams played, the Gophers suffered. They turned the ball over 21 times.

“It definitely stings when you lose to a team by that much. We definitely want to show them up this year,” junior guard Shayne Mullaney said.

Chmiel, who works primarily with guards, spent four seasons at Penn State. But this time around, he’ll try to help the Gophers cut down on costly turnovers.

Mullaney said Minnesota is using Chmiel’s Penn State coaching time to its advantage.

“He obviously knows their style of play. Coach Fred is in charge of our scouting reports, and he’s great at that. Obviously, we want to win extra for him because that’s where he came from,” Mullaney said.

And for the Gophers to do that, they must improve their ball handling.

The team has averaged just over 16 turnovers in its losses.  Mullaney has accounted for 16 of the team’s 34 turnovers in the past two games.

“We had way too many turnovers last game. We need to limit our turnovers, especially me as a point guard. It makes a difference in a close game,” Mullaney said.

The turnovers have forced the Gophers to battle back from deficits.

“We just need to come out more aggressively in the first half and not dig ourselves a deep hole,” senior forward Shae Kelley said.

While Mullaney has struggled with turnovers, she currently is second in the Big Ten for assists.

 “We’re putting her in situations where we feel she can give looks to those kids for shots,” head coach Marlene Stollings said.

Stollings said Mullaney has distributed the ball well, but she wishes the team would become less selfless.

“If [there is] any problem that we have, it’s telling them to shoot more instead of pass,” Stollings said. “Shayne’s performed really well for us, but she’s logging a lot of minutes. We don’t have a lot of depth, so we’re going to try to help her with that. We want her to remain very confident.”

The team has dropped two consecutive games, largely due to its turnovers, but Stollings has tried to keep the team’s confidence up.

“Coach has told us that we can’t dwell on [the losses] too long. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We just need to keep everybody’s spirits up,” Kelley said.

Mullaney said the team is hungry for a victory after dropping its past two games.

“Everybody’s fighting for their lives this time of year. It’s a time of separation in the conference,” Stollings said.


Jack Satzinger contributed to this report