The Gophers women's basketball team led 57-50 early in the fourth quarter of a game at Illinois on Jan. 28. It was a pivotal game, a chance at a good road victory for a Gophers team that had been starting to show up in brackets as a projected NCAA tournament team.

Their four-point lead had been extended to a seven-point cushion on a made three-pointer by standout sophomore Mara Braun. But on the play, she landed on an Illini defender's foot. Hobbling, she left the game a little over a minute later.

That was the last time Braun has been on the court. A day later, the Gophers announced Braun needed foot surgery and would be out indefinitely. The cascading effect of that injury on Minnesota's season has been felt ever since, but perhaps never so acutely as Wednesday night — something I talked about on the Daily Delivery podcast.

In a perfect world, Wednesday's game between the Gophers and Iowa at Williams Arena would have been more than just the Caitlin Clark show.

That was always going to be the main attraction, and for good reason. Clark has been filling basketball gyms to capacity nationwide — Wednesday's game was sold out months ago — and there was the added delight of Clark chasing (and making) history.

But before Braun's injury, one could have imagined the game being a true test for a Gophers team pushing for their first NCAA tourney appearance since 2018. It could have been a national stage for Braun to show her potential — not an all-time great like Clark, but an ascending player on an up-and-coming team.

Instead, of course, with Braun out and center Sophie Hart joining her more recently with a hip injury that has kept her sidelined, the Gophers were completely overmatched. The final was 108-60, a troubling score even considering Minnesota's injury woes.

The Gophers went on to lose 73-68 to Illinois after leading by seven at the time of Braun's injury. They were 4-4 in the Big Ten going into that game; they're 5-12 in the conference now. All but one of the losses since Illinois have been by double-digits.

They have just one Big Ten regular season game — Sunday at Penn State — before the spotlight again shines on Minneapolis for the conference tournament at Target Center. That, too, will be a national showcase for Clark.

First-year Gophers coach Dawn Plitzuweit should hope it's also a chance for Minnesota to show a little more resilience than it has offered in the last month.

Here are four more things to know today:

⋅ Also on Thursday's podcast, I welcomed in Star Tribune writer Randy Johnson for a bunch of hockey talk. It's a big weekend for the Gophers men's and women's teams, while Thursday is almost a must-win for the Wild in Nashville.

⋅ Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft has the Vikings taking Florida State defensive end Jared Verse at No. 11 — with Denver taking Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy one pick later at No. 12.

⋅ Star Tribune Vikings writer Ben Goessling has an interesting piece about the importance of having defensive coordinator Brian Flores back for a second year. If Flores lands a head coaching job after this season, the Vikings will get two third-round picks as compensation.

⋅ Also, Vikings writer Andrew Krammer will join me from Indianapolis on Friday's podcast. Krammer and Goessling are covering the NFL Scouting Combine, and there has been plenty of news already this week.