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Star guard might be back by round of 64

MINNEAPOLIS -- Injured Minnesota guard Lindsay Whalen might
return to the hardwood sooner than previously expected.

Coach Pam Borton said Tuesday that the senior's broken right
hand could be healed in time for the first round of the NCAA
Tournament. Whalen broke two metacarpal bones in her shooting hand
after falling on it late in the first half against Ohio State on
Thursday.

The Gophers had said she would miss four to six weeks, and
Whalen last week said she expected a six-week absence. That
wouldn't make her available until after the first two games of the
NCAA Tournament.

But Whalen visited doctors Tuesday and got good news. Doctors
found that the separation of the fracture "was in the bottom part
of her hand, where there was a lot of blood circulation, so it
wasn't as bad as they thought," Borton said.

"There's a better chance she will be back earlier than
expected," Borton said. "It's still week by week. It just depends
on how quickly her body can recover from an injury, but it looks a
lot brighter than what it did."

Whalen will wear a removable cast and will be reevaluated
weekly.

On Sunday, in their first game without Whalen, the Gophers won
at Illinois 63-54. They have four games remaining in the regular
season, including Thursday at Iowa.