For all the analysis of the film — and there was a lot after the Gophers lost to Wake Forest on Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge — the key, according to coach Lindsay Whalen, is simple:
"That's what I go to right now,'' Whalen said.
Whalen was talking in Williams Arena after Gophers' practice Friday. Saturday a team that starts four freshmen and a sophomore will open the Big Ten portion of the schedule against Penn State. During a 4-3 nonconference start, there have been highs and lows, stretches when this talented but young group played very well. And stretches where it seemed finding good shots on the offensive end is a struggle.
Against Virginia last week it was a 20-0 Cavaliers' run from late in the first quarter into the second. Wednesday against Wake Forest it was a five-point first quarter in which the Gophers made two of 11 shots and turned the ball over seven times.
"As point guards, we have to be better,'' said Amaya Battle, as Katie Borowicz nodded in agreement. Battle had her first Gophers start against Wake Forest, and it was a difficult one in which she made one of 10 shots. She and Borowicz, as the main ballhandlers on the team, are the ones responsible for ball security. And both pledged to do better after they combined for 10 of the Gophers' 19 turnovers against Wake Forest.
"I don't feel like we've been close to our best yet,'' Borowicz said of the Gophers.
The Gophers turn the ball over 15.3 times per game, ninth worst in the Big Ten. In their four wins they have averaged 14 turnovers, in four losses 18.3. In losses to Virginia and Wake Forest the Gophers had 41 turnovers.
Whalen's goal for every game is 18 or more assists, 14 or fewer turnovers. So you can guess what the team worked on preparing for Penn State.
"They have to understand, as a group, what kind of passes you won't be able to get away with against long, athletic Power Five teams," Whalen said.
A big part of that is movement without the ball. Against Wake Forest there were several possessions where there wasn't much movement, either with the ball or without the ball. And that makes it hard to create enough separation to make a good pass or get a good shot.
It won't get easier Saturday against a Penn State team that is off to a 7-1 start, though that one loss came last week, by 21, to Virginia.
Penn State likes to use a full-court press a lot looking for turnovers and easy baskets.
"We've worked on it,'' Whalen said. "We show 'em the film. We saw when we just stood around, when we forced it, when we took bad shots. When we move the ball, move ourselves, better things happen for us.''
Eight Gophers players will be making their Big Ten debuts Saturday. Some of those are older players who have joined the team via the transfer portal. But there are also a lot of young players going through this for the first time. That the team is still a work in progress as the Big Ten season begins is a challenge.
"We're in the middle of a pretty significant stretch,'' Whalen said. It began with back-to-back games last weekend at the Cavalier Classic in Virginia, the Big 10/ACC Challenge and Saturday's Big Ten opener.
The Gophers host Kentucky next Wednesday, then play at Iowa next weekend on Saturday.