The Minnesota women’s basketball team is beginning its final lap on a 2009-10 season that many would like to forget.
Even with the disappointing year, the Gophers hope to continue to find positives to build on as the season winds down.
Minnesota (13-14, 6-10 Big Ten) will look to continue the positive momentum it built with last Sunday’s 59-50 win at Indiana as the Gophers host Michigan (14-12, 6-10) on Thursday at 7 p.m. and then wrap up the regular season at Michigan State (19-8, 10-6) on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Gophers suffered one of their worst losses of the season when they fell at Michigan 74-40 earlier this month. The loss was the sixth in a row for a Minnesota team that was in a tailspin at the time.
“We’re a different team than the one who played Michigan the first time,” Minnesota head coach Pam Borton said. “I think we’re still taking it one game at time. I think we’re playing better and that we’ve come together as a team, but I think it’s still about having fun and getting a little better every day.”
Minnesota has won only two of its past 10 games, and sparing a Big Ten tournament title, the women can only hope to make the women’s National Invitation Tournament. However, the team has still found several positive things to build off of.
One of the positives is the recently revamped play of sophomore Kiara Buford . Buford began the season as the main scoring threat for the Gophers but began to fade as defenses made adjustments to slow her offensive production.
But recently Buford has found ways to get her scoring touch back as she has led Minnesota in scoring over the past two games, averaging 18.5 points per game , including hitting a career-high seven 3-pointers against Iowa.
While the Gophers continue to build toward the future, the seniors continue to try to end their final season on a strong note, especially with this being their last game at Williams Arena.
“It’s a little sad because it’s going to be our last time playing as a team and playing at Williams Arena in front of our amazing fans,” senior Zoe Harper said. “But it’s also the next chapter of our lives, and we have to graduate sometime.”
The Gophers know that their last two games will be challenging as their opponents will be looking to improve their seeding in the Big Ten Tournament, as well as their chances for a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan comes into Thursday’s contest desperately needing a win for tournament consideration. The Wolverines have lost three games in a row and have fallen all the way to eighth place in the Big Ten.
Michigan State, on the other hand, will look to continue to finish the season strong and clinch second in the conference. The Spartans appear to be peaking at the right time of the season as they have won four-straight games, including handing Ohio State its only home loss of the season in overtime last Sunday.
“The Big Ten is tough this year and everybody is beating up everybody,” Borton said. “It’s the toughest conference in the country top to bottom, other conferences have weaker bottom teams, but this year it’s one through 11, and everybody is just beating everybody.”
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