Minnesota hoping to regain stride by postseason

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The Gophers, after being ranked 11th on Feb. 7, have dropped four-straight games.

On Feb. 7 Minnesota’s women’s basketball team looked poised to make another deep NCAA Tournament run, ranked 11th in the country and on a seven-game winning streak.
Two weeks later, the picture is entirely different.

The Gophers (17-8, 9-5 Big Ten) are on a four-game losing streak, a slump longer than any of Minnesota’s seniors have experienced before.

“We need to start playing well and clicking as a team so we can go into the postseason … clicking on all cylinders,” senior guard April Calhoun said. “That way we’re able to accomplish some things that we came into this season hoping to do.”

It may be easier to find positives had recent games been more competitive, but Minnesota hardly has been close, getting blown out three times.

During the losing streak, the only game the Gophers were within 20 points of an opponent was Sunday’s 67-61 loss to ninth-place Wisconsin.

Minnesota coach Pam Borton said the slump should be no cause for panic, however, citing the Gophers tough stretch of schedule.

The Gophers played Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State, the three top-ranked teams in the Big Ten, in consecutive games and faced the Spartans and Boilermakers on the road in front of hostile crowds.

“It’s not so much of a big deal when (losses are) spread out on your schedule,” Borton said. “But we were dealt these cards.

“Have we handled it extremely well? No, but we have faced adversity as a basketball team every year, and we’ve just got to get better from it.”

As Minnesota has faced tougher competition, Borton also has appeared to shorten her rotation from what used to consist of 11 players and plenty of minutes for the reserves.

In Sunday’s loss at Wisconsin, only six Gophers scored, and Borton went with her starting five as often as possible.

Borton also has made it clear she has not been happy with Minnesota’s defense, which has given up more than 60 points in each Gophers loss.

“It’s not just these last four games; it’s been all season,” Borton said. “We’ve played a lot of players this year, and some of those kids’ strengths are not defense.”

Senior guard Shannon Bolden, easily the Gophers’ best and most consistent defender, now is taking on a greater role, playing at least 30 minutes in three-straight games after being able to rest her legs in early-season Minnesota blowouts.

Whatever the reason for Minnesota’s recent slide, it appears Gophers players realize they have to figure things out quickly as a season that started with promise begins to slip away.

“We need to get back to our mentality of Minnesota basketball,” senior guard Shannon Schonrock said. “That’s playing tough defense, finding a way to get it done and also playing better together.”

© Copyright 2006 The Minnesota Daily

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