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Normally after a win, there would have been a day off.
But this situation isn't normal.
That's why Monday, the day after the Gophers women's basketball team beat Wisconsin at home — its second straight victory and fifth in seven games — coach Lindsay Whalen had the players back on the court.
"It didn't go long," Whalen said. "Just a little over an hour. But we need two days to prepare for this."
Wednesday the Gophers play at Rutgers, a team that, after losing games and weeks of games and practice because of COVID-19 issues, has returned and won three straight games.
The Scarlet Knights (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten) are difficult to prepare for because they press more than any team in the conference. Coach C. Vivian Stringer uses her athletic roster to try to create havoc.
They often press after made baskets, going with a 1-2-2 three-quarter-court press. Or, sometimes, pressing the entire length of the court. Their goal is to trap the ball, create turnovers and score easy baskets.
"The one thing that strikes me is they seem to be everywhere," Gophers point guard Jasmine Powell said. "When I was playing against them last year it seemed like they were all over the place, like nobody was unguarded. It's really chaotic. They're very aggressive, very intense on defense. They can be a little intimidating.'
Rutgers is first in the Big Ten in turnovers forced (21.2 per game) and first in steals (13.4).
The Scarlet Knights score an average of 26.8 points off turnovers, more than a third of their points. They have four players in the top 10 in the conference in steals in Tekia Mack (second, 2.9), Arella Guirantes (fourth, 2.5), Mael Gilles (fifth, 2.4) and Diamond Johnson (ninth, 1.9).
Their press off inbounds passes, to Whalen, is unique. "It's like a 2-3 [zone], but it's like an umbrella, with three players facing the ballhandler. It's unique, and they do a great job. We're going to have to be really good. They want to trap as much as they can."
It is a challenging matchup for the Gophers, who have struggled with zone presses, particularly at the end of wins over Purdue and Illinois. The Gophers are 11th in the Big Ten, turning the ball over an average of 16 times a game.
That's why Whalen added another day of practice. "We've worked hard on it," she said. "Every time we've worked on something, we have improved. There is no question we have to be better, and we will be better."
All five players on the court have to work together to beat the Rutgers press, which wants to get players trapped on the sides or in the corners. But nobody has more responsibility than Powell. As a freshman last season, she played a strong game in Minnesota's double-overtime victory over Rutgers at Williams Arena, scoring 19 points with four assists and five rebounds. She did have five turnovers. Indeed, the Gophers won despite Rutgers scoring 29 points off 26 turnovers. But thanks in large part to Powell and senior post Taiye Bello (19 points, 22 rebounds) Minnesota was able to overcome it.
"When we've struggled breaking presses this season we haven't had much poise," Powell said. "We'll have to have it against Rutgers. They try to speed you up, get an edge on you fast. Being the point guard, I have to set the tone. Just slow down, find the open player, take care of the ball. We don't need to rush, at all. We need a lot of people slashing to the middle and not up the sidelines."
For Powell, there has been both anxiety and excitement preparing for this game. "It's a challenge I have to overcome," she said. "That's how I go about it."