Minnesota will go for two straight wins against Charlotte

by Paul Cordes

The Minnesota women’s basketball team has quieted a lot of skeptics after an impressive start to the season. A win against the defending Atlantic 10 co-champions could silence the rest.

The Gophers will host Charlotte today at Williams arena with game time set for 7 p.m.

Minnesota is coming off of a 75-63 win in front of a home crowd against Northern Iowa on Friday. Coach Pam Borton said she was very pleased with her team’s aggressiveness, hard work and emotions.

The Gophers (1-0 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) will need to bring those three things to the floor against a tough opponent if they hope to start the season with a pair of wins.

The 49ers (1-0, 0-0 Atlantic 10) are coming off a 21-9 record last year as they earned a share of the regular season conference title with a 13-3 record in the league.

And though Charlotte lost four starters from that team, returning only junior guard Whitney Hoey, the 49ers put up big numbers in their first game against Arkansas State.

Junior guard Sabrina Gregory will be one to watch, as she collected 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists against the Indians, all team highs. And 6-foot 5-inch sophomore center Danielle Burgin could give Minnesota freshman center Zoe Harper her first real challenge in the paint.

Harper, an Australian native, talked earlier in the year about making the transition to the American style of play – a style that she’ll see first-hand from Burgin.

“I’m starting to get used to the American style of play,” she said. “It is different from Australia, but I’m starting to understand it better.”

Borton acknowledged the fact that Harper still has some learning to do, but she is happy with Harper’s work ethic and Borton said she’ll continue to get Harper some playing time.

“I think we’re getting used to how we’re going to play Zoe, as far how many minutes at time and we’re kind of weaning her into things,” she said. “Our post play is still a work in progress, but I see great things and she’s working hard and playing with a lot of emotion.”

But Harper will need some help if Minnesota is going to pull out a win tonight.

The guard trio of sophomore Emily Fox, senior Kelly Roysland and freshman Brittany McCoy will play a big role, but the Gophers’ bench could be the deciding factor against Charlotte.

Redshirt freshman forward Katie Ohm, freshman guard Korinne Campbell and redshirt freshman center Ashley Ellis-Milan combined for 29 points against Northern Iowa on Friday.

Ohm not only led the bench in scoring, but the entire team. Her 15 points was a team best, but after the game, she made clear what her priorities were this year, and her points per game were not at the top.

“I just go out there and play my role and do what I have to do,” she said. “I just need to go out there and play hard defense, hustle and hope we win. It’s about the team, not personal goals.”

Borton talked about the importance of her bench players being able to be big producers for the Gophers and said she will continue to look to her bench for a lot of points and quality minutes.

“I know we’re expecting a lot of energy and a lot of production from those kids,” she said. “We have to be able to get a lot of production from them and they’re only going to get better.”