While No. 24 IU women’s basketball suffered a disappointing 80-76 loss to Ohio State at home last Sunday, it’s had nearly a week to readjust for its next opponent.
IU will travel north to take on Minnesota Saturday, looking to complete a season sweep after the team defeated the Minnesota 65-52 on Jan. 27. A win would mark a program-record 21 wins for the regular season.
A victory would also put IU in fourth place in the Big Ten, separating itself from Ohio State. The Buckeyes hold the tiebreaker over the Hoosiers for a coveted double bye in the Big Ten tournament.
That puts a lot of emphasis on Saturday’s matchup in the Twin Cities.
The Golden Gophers lead the all-time series 37-30 including one meeting in the Big Ten tournament, but the Hoosiers have won five of the last six meetings dating to the 2015-16 season.
However, the Hoosiers have a 16-16 at home record in the series compared to 12-20 on the road.
IU is 8-2 in road games this season, and the team won its last visit to Minnesota 82-70 on Feb. 20, 2018. Prior to that, Minnesota had won four straight games at home.
The Gopher's season has been disappointing season and head coach Lindsey Whelan, sitting at just 5-10 in conference and 15-11 overall after going 21-11 and making the Women's National Invitation Tournament last season.
The Hoosiers' forwards could play a major role since they do not have to worry about a significant height disadvantage against Minnesota.
Sophomore forward Aleksa Gulbe has turned strong defense into offensive production, scoring 15 and 14 points in her last two games respectively. Gulbe went 9-12 in those games, taking some of the burdens off freshman forward Mackenzie Holmes, who has struggled at times to discover where she slots into IU’s zone offense.
Minnesota's key players remain the same from the first matchup this season. Senior forward Taiye Bello is averaging a double-double at 12 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
She had a double-double against the Hoosiers on Jan. 27, finishing with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
While limiting Minnesota’s rebounding may present a challenge for IU, it may not be as challenging as slowing down freshman guard Jasmine Powell. After leading scorer and junior guard Destiny Pitts transferred, Powell has taken over and excelled offensively.
Powell scored 15 points on 5-14 shooting against IU but began a stretch of double-digit scoring in 10 of her last 11 games against Big Ten opponents. That includes three straight games of 20 or more points that increased her season scoring totals from 8.8 to 11.7 points per game.
If IU can find a way to neutralize Powell and Bello, it will have a good chance of coming away from Minnesota with a season sweep and a half-game lead ahead of OSU for fourth place in the Big Ten.