With the Gophers women’s basketball team winning only 20 percent of games so far this season, there are plenty of things to improve. Head coach Lindsay Whalen brought up one easy example of where her team can improve: hustle.
It stood out in a 90-73 loss to No. 9 Maryland on Thursday, Jan. 14.
First, the good news: On two possessions, a Minnesota player dove on the floor to get a loose ball. The bad news: teammates stood around, and the Terrapins eventually came away with it.
“It probably has to hurt a little bit with a tough loss before it really sinks in — hustle plays and sprinting back (on defense) and all the intangible things in a game build up to being really big factors between a win and a loss,” Whalen said.
Minnesota (2-7, 1-6 Big Ten) has another chance for improvement against Nebraska (7-4, 5-3) at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Lincoln.
“At times we showed we can play with a team like Maryland, that is at the top of the conference,” Whalen said. “But you have to finish plays.”
Tuesday’s game will be backup forward Kayla Mershon’s first game at Nebraska since she transferred away after last season. The Minnetonka native was ruled immediately eligible in December and has averaged 4.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.
Mershon, who played 60 games for the Cornhuskers, wanted a better off-the-court college experience so came home. She said a return to Nebraska included “excitement, nervousness.”
“It’s a lot of different emotions, but it’s really nice that the girls are being so supportive,” Mershon said. “And the coaches, just being there for me.”
Whalen added, “We’ll do everything we can to make it a positive experience for her. … I know she’s excited and we’ll just — I’m sure there will be some extra nerves. It’s natural; and we will help her through it any way we can.”
As Whalen looks for ways to turn the season around, one option could be an expanded role for freshman Katie Borowicz, who has played two games since enrolling early from Roseau High School and granted immediate eligibility.
Borowicz, 5-foot-7 guard had eight points, including two made 3-pointers, late against Maryland. She made her debut and played 16 minutes with Jasmine Powell in foul trouble in a Jan. 10 loss to Penn State.
“She is absolutely fearless,” Whalen said.
Whalen said she could experiment with both guards, Powell and Borowicz, in the backcourt at the same time. While their lineup would be really small with the 5-foot-6 Powell and 5-7 Borowicz, it’s another detail that could help Minnesota get over the hump.