From the moment training camp started, Gophers women's basketball coach Lindsay Whalen was focused on defense.

Yes, the plays were installed and offense was practiced. But one look at the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season told Whalen that the most important step to improve the team would come on defense.

Last season, the Gophers scored an average of 68.7 points. That was middle of the pack in the talented Big Ten Conference.

But on defense, they allowed 78.7 points per game. Opponents shot 46.3% against Minnesota, putting the Gophers last in the conference in that stat.

"This is something we've harped on, every day," Whalen said after Tuesday's practice at Williams Arena. The Gophers, who have won two in a row after a season-opening loss to Jacksonville, play host to American University on Wednesday night.

Whalen credited associate head coach Carly Thibault-DuDonis, the team's defensive coordinator, for the work she's done, and the buy-in from the players.

This season, opponents are scoring 53.3 points a game and shooting 32.4%. In Sunday's 48-32 Gophers victory over George Washington, the Colonials shot 19.2%, the lowest ever by a Minnesota opponent. In back-to-back victories at Arizona State (66-59 in overtime) and against George Washington, the Gophers held the two teams to 34-for-124 shooting overall (27.4%) and 5-for-33 on three-pointers (15.2%).

This is all good. But now the Gophers offense has to catch up.

The 48 points the Gophers scored against GW was the second lowest under Whalen. In three games, the Gophers are averaging 60 points, shooting 34.2% (compared to 40.2% last year) overall and 30.1% on threes (32.7%).

The Gophers worked extensively on the offense in practice Tuesday. Whalen said she feels the team has become too reliant on pick-and-roll plays, so more motion sets have been installed.

A team that has shot an average of nearly 25 threes per game might need to shoot fewer, at least in the short term, as the coaching staff stresses the need to get into the paint more, either for finishes at the rim or for kick-outs.

"We have to move the ball more," point guard Jasmine Powell said. "We have to get into the paint, get paint touches. When we do that, we're successful."

Whalen said she likes a lot of the shots her team is getting, and that some of those will start to fall. But there needs to be fewer difficult, contested shots taken, and that means more ball movement. A large number of returning players helps, but the Gophers are still integrating two grad transfers, center Bailey Helgren and guard Deja Winters, into the mix.

The return of forward Kadi Sissoko will help, too. She had nine points and nine rebounds in nine minutes Sunday against George Washington before leaving the game early in the second quarter after taking an elbow to the face.