The Gophers are having another good season. Overall, they are 17-6 and 9-3 in the Big Ten. That means they're still within striking distance of a division title.
The Gophers have also been consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 teams -- which makes them likely participants in the NCAA post-season tournament. They're doing all this without the go-to players of the past, like Janel McCarville and Lindsey Whalen.
But things haven't been so great as of late. An elbow injury threatens to sideline the team's top scorer, Jamie Broback. Some of their senior players have made some uncharacteristic mistakes. That and sloppy ball handling have contributed to a two-game losing streak.
A couple of days before the game with Ohio State, the Gophers are running up and down the hardwood in Williams arena. They jog in a single file line around the outside of the floor until a coach passes them a ball. As soon as they get the ball they stop, take a jump shot and move on.
After giving her players a few minutes to stretch, head coach Pam Borton focuses on fixing some of the problems that have recently plagued them. And she tells them that if they mess up in the next drill, they're going to be doing some extra running.
"If you end up with 10 turnovers in five minutes, you're running eight sprints," she says.
The team runs a series of quick half-court scrimmages. The pressure is on the side with the ball to pass, shoot and score and do so without traveling, or throwing the ball out of bounds or to an opposing player.
"I think we have to realize we're still a really good team," says senior forward Shannon Bolden.
She says the team is not trying to make too much out of their past mistakes.
"We just have to get back to the basics. I think just the fundamentals, defense and just taking care of the ball and things like that," Bolden says. "We know we're a good team. We don't want to be peaking too soon anyway. And we just have to put those last two games behind us."
Bolden is a kinesiology major from Marshall. She is highly regarded as an aggressive defender, and is averaging five points and three rebounds a game. Bolden says she and other senior players can help the younger players keep the season in perspective.
"I think as seniors we do have a lot of experience, and that's what we have to count on in games like this. When we face adversity, the seniors and us three captains have to be the ones to calm the team down and let them know everything's going to be OK," sayd Bolden. "And that's what we're going to continue to try to do when we face adversity, through the rest of the season."
Coach Pam Borton says she's also trying to keep the season in perspective. She says a win over Ohio State will not make their season, and a loss will not break them. In spite of recent setbacks, Borton says this team has a lot going for it.
"Our work ethic. Winning a tough game at Iowa. I think the depth and development of some of our kids and our team this year," says Borton. "You can have a lot of issues on your team when you've got 16 talented players on your team. And I've been real pleased about that so far."
After Ohio State, the Gophers have three more regular season games. Two of those games will be played in Williams Arena. The home court has been good to the Gophers this year. They are 10-1 this season at the Barn.