It's not as if the Gophers need any extra motivation for Saturday's game against Wisconsin. They're as eager as ever to renew the Border Battle, and a victory at Williams Arena would run their win streak against the Badgers to nine games, their longest in the history of the series.
An 0-3 start to the Big Ten season, though, adds some urgency. The Gophers opened the conference schedule against the top three picks in the league's preseason coaches' poll, and struggled with turnovers in all three games and poor starts in two. Saturday, they return home to face the Badgers, also looking for their first league victory.
Gophers coach Marlene Stollings said she wants her team to play with more intensity on defense from the start, avoid self-induced turnovers and shoot better inside. The Gophers also have to ditch any disappointment over their three-game losing streak.
"We know we've taken the Big Ten's best right off the bat," Stollings said. "We can't get too down that those games didn't come out the way we wanted.
"It's not fun to lose. But the way we look at it, you can't get too high or too low in this conference. You've got to take it game by game, and [Saturday], we're looking at our opportunity to get on track and stay in the win column for a while."
The Gophers began the Big Ten season with a 25-point loss at No. 14 Ohio State, shooting only 29 percent. They played No. 4 Maryland close in an 83-72 defeat at home, then regressed in Wednesday's 78-62 loss at Indiana.
Against the Hoosiers, the Gophers were outscored 17-6 in the first quarter, the third consecutive game in which they fell behind by double digits in the first 10 minutes. Stollings also lamented their missed 15 shots inside. Many of their 22 turnovers were unforced, bringing their total to 67 turnovers in three conference games.
The past two practices concentrated on reducing turnovers and improving shooting inside
"We need to just stop and take a breath and look, and then pass," Gophers guard Carlie Wagner said of the rash of turnovers. "If we just slow it down, we'll be fine. And we have to be self-starters. We need to come out with energy and understand that the first quarter has a huge impact on the game."
Stollings said guard Gadiva Hubbard, the top-scoring freshman in the Big Ten (13.8 points per game), is expected to return sometime in the next two weeks. She has missed four games because of mononucleosis. Center Jessie Edwards, who missed the Maryland game because of the flu, played only five minutes at Indiana and is expected to play limited minutes Saturday.
Wagner said the Gophers have not pouted about their losses.
"We can get back on track here very quickly," Stollings said. "Our team is very confident."