After big road loss, Gophers return to the raised floor

Minnesota suffered its first loss of the season Wednesday in New Mexico.

Emily Wickstrom

For the first time this season, Minnesota’s women’s basketball team will have to test how to rebound from a loss.

After losing Wednesday, the Gophers (4-1) will try to get back in the win column Saturday when they face Nebraska at 5 p.m. at Williams Arena.

And while No. 10 Minnesota has at times looked poised to make another deep NCAA Tournament run, Wednesday’s 62-44 loss at New Mexico proved the team still has a lot to work on.

“We know we can play up to their level, if not better,” junior guard Kelly Roysland said of New Mexico. “We just didn’t show it (Wednesday).”

In Minnesota’s first four games, its frontcourt led the way.

The combination of Jamie Broback, Lauren Lacey, Liz Podomonick and Natasha Williams averaged more than 50 points a game together.

But Wednesday against New Mexico, the four post players were held to a combined 24 points, giving Gophers coach Pam Borton cause for concern.

“We knew how New Mexico was going to play our post players,” Borton said. “That’s one thing we need to get better at. They need to be able to handle double teams ” score on double teams, pass on double teams ” because we’re going to see that all year.”

Another early weakness for Minnesota has been free throw shooting.

The Gophers’ season percentage dropped to .576 after the New Mexico game, where the team shot just .580 from the line in the first half.

Minnesota will get a chance Saturday to improve in all areas, although it’s hard to say which Nebraska team will show up.

The Huskers (2-2) lost 68-49 to South Dakota State, a first-year Division I program, at home Nov. 19.

But days later, Nebraska led No. 3 Louisiana State 36-30 at halftime over Thanksgiving weekend before losing.

Either way, Minnesota’s post players likely will have their hands full with 6-foot-2-inch Huskers freshman forward Kelsey Griffin.

Griffin poured in 31 points with 14 rebounds against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. She leads Nebraska, averaging 18.8 points per game.

The Huskers’ bench also is a factor, as it does not allow Minnesota the depth advantage it is accustomed to.

Nebraska, similar to the Gophers, goes nine or 10 players deep.

“We’ve got 16 people on the team this year, and we’re going to only be as good as our depth and people accepting their roles,” Borton said Tuesday.

“As a coaching staff we’re still trying to get a feel for what that rotation is.”