SDSU prepares for Minnesota

 Sunday night the women’s basketball team learned that they will host the University of Minnesota in Frost Arena on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The game will be the sixth meeting between the two teams. SDSU currently leads the series 4-1, last playing the Golden Gophers in 2008 when they defeated then No. 25 Minnesota 65-55 in Minneapolis, Minn. The year before, Gabby Boever’s sister Maria Boever downed the Golden Gophers on a last second layup.

This time around, the two teams meet each other under similar circumstances, both narrowly missing out on NCAA Tournament bids. 

“I’d say they are definitely one of the best teams left in the WNIT, for sure. They just barely missed the NCAA Tournament. They’re very good,” said head coach Aaron Johnston.

The Golden Gophers have a 22-12 record and have won five of their last six. They have struggled on the road however, going 4-7 in those games.

“Things we’re going to have to do is shoot the ball well. They do a great job defending inside, so we’re going to have to make some jump shots. Hopefully our transition game can be good. Sometimes they struggle with defense in transition,” Johnston said.

Minnesota boasts a talented starting lineup, headlined by center Amanda Zahui who has a double-double stat line, averaging 14.8 points per game and 11.6 rebound per game. She also has 100 blocks.

The Golden Gophers’ leading score is guard Rachel Banham who averages 22 points per game and shoots 42 percent from long range. 

“In general we all have to be aware of where Banham is at,” Johnston said. “We can’t run five people at her because they have a lot of good players around her, but we have to have an awareness of where she’s at and make life as difficult for her as possible.”

Despite the talent of Banham and the focus she will draw from the Jackrabbits’ defense, Johnston believes the game will be won or lost depending on how they play against the rest of Minnesota’s players.

“We have to do a good job on their second, third and fourth leading scorers,” Johnston said. “If they get 15, 20 points, then we’re in trouble, so they are really the group we have to do a good job on defensively. Rachel’s going to get points no matter what we do.”

As the Jacks prepare, it ultimately comes down to how SDSU players perform on the court rather than Minnesota’s stat line, and going into the game Johnston is just hoping to continue doing and improving on what they do well.

“We’ve defended pretty well lately and we’ve rebounded pretty well so things will have to be there for us,” Johnston said. “We’ve also taken care of the basketball and I think that’s something that we’ve struggled with a bit. We’re getting quality shots. So now it’s time to step up and maybe get more of them.”