When asked this week whom they consider the league's most valuable player, Big Ten women's basketball coaches couldn't help but mention Minnesota point guard Lindsay Whalen.\nThe sophomore averages 22.7 points, 6.7 assists and 2.6 steals a game, propelling the No. 15 Golden Gophers to only their fourth winning season in 20 years.\nThe Hoosiers (11-13, 5-8 Big Ten) get their second crack this season at Whalen and rejuvenated Minnesota (19-4, 9-3 Big Ten) at 2 p.m. Sunday at Assembly Hall.\nWhile making a case for conference player of the year, an unselfish Whalen has orchestrated Minnesota's turnaround from a 8-20 team last year to second place in the Big Ten this year.\n"She's the type of player that can score 30 a night if she's needed to but understands the bigger picture," said Minnesota coach Brenda Oldfield, who compiled a 35-22 record in two years at Ball State. "She understands she has be able to include teammates. You look at her stats across the board, not only scoring, but rebounds, assists, steals. She just understands in order for us to be successful she has to be able to do all that."\nWhalen is only one peg of one of the nation's most potent offensive teams -- Minnesota scores 82.7 points per game, good for third in the nation behind Connecticut and Duke. Three other Golden Gophers average double figures in Big Ten play, including forwards Corrin Von Wald (12.3) and Kadidja Andersson (11.1) and center Janel McCarville (14.8).\nThat high-octane offense faces one of the Big Ten's best defensive teams in IU (65.2 points allowed per game). And the Hoosiers have displayed some resilience at home. Their defense has limited opponents to a 58.9 points-per-game average and 38.7-percent shooting from the field at Assembly Hall.\nMinnesota ranks 10th in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 75.6 points per game. IU associate head coach Trish Betthauser said she hopes to take advantage of the Gophers weakness of giving up easy shots with a zone offense.\nLast time the two teams clashed, Minnesota arose with a 75-60 triumph after the Hoosiers evened the score at 56 with 4:45 left. The Gophers scored 14 of the next 16 points and fired 67 percent (18 of 27) from the field in the second half to pull away.\n"I think we had a couple spans where we didn't get stops and they did," said point guard Heather Cassady, who fouled out with nine points. "It was a close game. That last four minutes, I don't know if we ran out of gas or they just took it to us harder. We just relaxed."\nCenter Jill Chapman was the only Hoosier to tally double figures, with 26 points, while three Gophers produced double digits, led by Whalen's 22.\n"Lindsay Whalen -- wow -- she is special," said Betthauser, who is expected to lead the team Sunday as coach Kathi Bennett recovers from a fractured neck vertebra. "She's really tough to defend because she uses a lot of ball screens so well. You have to force her to go one way or the other. But she's still very good at being able to yo-yo back and forth."\nBeyond her ability to quickly release three pointers, shoot off one foot and score off the dribble, Whalen displays a personal intangible that stands out from other potential candidates for Big Ten Player of the Year.\n"I think her strongest attribute is that she plays with no emotion," Betthauser said. "She's very cool and very calm and collected at the end of games, and she's really been their key because they've had a lot of close games. And she's been the one to have the ball in her hands."\nClose games within the last month include a 79-76 overtime victory over Illinois, a 70-66 loss to Ohio State and an 86-78 win over Northwestern. The struggle with the Wildcats, who shot 53 percent, aggravated Oldfield.\n"Northwestern played an inspired, well-coached, focused game," Oldfield said. "They did a tremendous job. Unfortunately, our young team has to continue to learn that we can't just show up and think we can play in spurts in a game like that. There are too many good teams in this conference"
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