When the Gophers women's basketball team returned to practice Monday, two of coach Lindsay Whalen's three starting guards were spectators.
Gadiva Hubbard remains out indefinitely with a badly sprained ankle sustained in the closing minutes of the Gophers' victory over Penn State Jan. 25. And Monday, Hubbard was joined on the sideline by Jasmine Powell, her left ankle in a boot.
Powell first injured the ankle in practice the day before the Jan. 31 game with Iowa, but she played. She reinjured the ankle in warmups before Sunday's game with Ohio State. Again, she played but was clearly hobbled and sat in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Sara Scalia continues to play through a separation of her right shoulder.
"None of them is going to be 100 percent for the rest of the year," Whalen said. "But we have games to play."
The Gophers, 5-9 overall and 4-8 in the Big Ten Conference after two straight losses, have two winnable games coming up on their schedule, both at Williams Arena. Minnesota hosts Illinois on Wednesday, Wisconsin on Sunday. That is two games against teams that are a combined 2-23 in conference play.
But with Hubbard likely out and Powell a game-time decision, Whalen might have to further juggle her lineup.
First, she has to address issues that came out of Sunday's 83-59 loss to the then 11th-ranked Buckeyes, who used a 27-11 third quarter to take control of the game; the Gophers have been outscored 65-19 in the third quarters of the past two games.
Whalen said she felt the team stopped playing together. "We took a step back," she said. "We didn't huddle as a team. Our communication wasn't good. I was disappointed how we reacted to [difficult] moments. I felt the frustration with injuries and the score took over. We talked about it, and we'll be better this week."
So what will the Gophers' lineup look like should Powell — the team's leading scorer and playmaker — not be able to play?
There are two ways to go. Whalen can insert freshman Katie Borowicz into Powell's spot, and keep Kadi Sissoko at the four in a lineup that also includes Scalia, Alexia Smith and Klarke Sconiers. Or Whalen could move Sissoko to small forward, have Smith run the point and start Laura Bagwell-Katalinich at power forward.
At this point, the goal is to try to push the team closer to .500 for better seeding in the conference tournament. If the Gophers can find a way to beat the Illini and Badgers as players heal, the team would be in a better position for the stretch run.
But it would be difficult without Powell, who is 18th in the Big Ten in scoring (15.4 points per game) and second in assists (5.6). Borowicz has been with the team only since graduating from Roseau High School and joining the Gophers midseason. Smith, too, is a freshman. Her play has improved, but she hasn't had the responsibility of running an offense for a full game.
The Gophers have had 42 turnovers turned into 49 points in the past two games. Cutting down on these mistakes will be difficult with inexperienced point guards.
"All I know is we will practice and play like a team," Whalen said. "I don't know how that will translate to the scoreboard, but we have to band together when we have adversity."