It became very clear very early Monday that Nebraska was going to make it very difficult for Kadi Sissoko to drive to the basket.
The Cornhuskers had watched the film. They knew what Sissoko, the junior forward for the Gophers women's basketball team, liked to do. So they clogged the lane, pushed Sissoko out.
So she changed her game plan.
In a three-point loss that came on a night starting point guard Jasmine Powell was out because of an injured right ankle, Sissoko — the talented forward from Paris — had her best college performance. She scored 25 points, the most by a Gophers player in a Big Ten opener under coach Lindsay Whalen. She made 10 of 19 shots and had six rebounds.
Wearing the face guard she has been using since being hit in the face in a game against George Washington Nov. 14, Sissoko channeled her aggressive plan into finding — and taking — more open midrange shots.
It was, to her, something of a revelation.
"Since last year, all of my game was driving, being aggressive that way," she said. "But I also think I can be aggressive by just shooting the ball when I have an open shot. I need to have more confidence in my midrange."
Against Nebraska, six of her baskets came on layups. She was 2-for-2 on put-backs after offensive rebounds. She was 4-for-6 when driving to the hoop. But she was also 5-for-8 on her midrange jumper, hitting three of them in her 11-point third quarter, during which the Gophers trimmed a 10-point deficit early in the quarter to a point entering the fourth.
In the age of analytics, the midrange jumper is a bit out of favor. But, given Sissoko's accuracy — and the way teams have begun playing her — Whalen wants to see more of them.
"I like her rhythm dribble around the 15-foot mark right now," Whalen said. "She's efficient with it. I thought she played really well [against Nebraska]. She did some attacking downhill, she had some post-ups. But I really liked her 15-footer."
The good news is Powell, who has returned to practice, is expected back on the court when the Gophers play at 13th-ranked Michigan on Sunday.
But even with Powell in the lineup, there have been times when the Gophers offense has struggled to get good shots. They have taken the most three-pointers of anyone in the conference and are third in the Big Ten in three-point makes per game (8.1).
Sissoko's quickness makes her a threat to drive, and the emergence of freshman post player Alanna Micheaux — who has made 12 of 15 shots in her past two games — has helped down low.
Should Sissoko continue to look for — and make — her midrange jumpers, it would help a Gophers offense looking for spacing.
"You want people to be able to score in different ways," Whalen said. "And I thought that was one of the best shooting performances she's had on the team."
To Sissoko, aggressive play sometimes means being willing to shoot — rather than drive — when there isn't a lane available.
"That's something I've been working on, shooting it when I have a shot," Sissoko said. "Obviously, teams want to stop me as a driver. And I need to add more stuff to my game."
The Gophers will need all of that and more to beat the Wolverines, who have forward Naz Hillmon, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year. She is one of the most efficient and prolific post scorers in the nation.
The Gophers will need defense and balanced scoring to have a chance. Plus, the more Sissoko shows she can hit the open midrange shot, the more defenses will have to close out hard on her. And that means more opportunities to do what she likes best, drive.