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Northern Iowa 75, Minnesota 63

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Strangely enough, the stress fracture in
Katie Ohm's left foot was one of the best things that happened to
Minnesota women's basketball over the past year.

The result was a redshirt for the state's all-time leading prep
scorer, and Ohm has four full seasons left with the Gophers.

"It's an amazing feeling. I've been waiting for it for a
year," she said, describing her first basket.

Ohm scored 15 points from several different spots on the court,
and Emily Fox added 13 points and 10 assists in a 75-63 victory
over Northern Iowa on Friday.

"She's a player. And as time goes on, she will be a great
player," said Panthers coach Tony DiCecco, one of the many coaches
who missed out when Ohm -- who scored 3,694 points at
Elgin-Millville High School -- committed early to Minnesota.

DiCecco's neighbor, who is a referee, frequently raved about Ohm
and encouraged him to come and see for himself. "Every time he
could e-mail me or write me," DiCecco said.

A well-documented wave of disgruntled departures from the
program last spring, plus the graduation of six others, stuck the
Gophers with a dearth of experience and ended their streak of
appearances in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings at 83
consecutive polls -- dating to Jan. 21, 2002. Fox and Kelly Roysland
are the only ones who played significant minutes last season, and
starting forward Leslie Knight is the only other player who was
even on the active roster.

Minnesota is playing a much softer nonconference schedule than
in the recent past because of that, replacing powers like Louisiana
State, Stanford and New Mexico with more opponents from midlevel
leagues.

Jessie Biggs had 22 points and Nicole Clausen added 12 points
for the Panthers, who have four starters back from a team that
finished 19-11 last season -- but dropped an exhibition game at home
last week to Division II Minnesota State, Moorhead, 68-64. They
shot 8-for-20 from 3-point range and started a post-halftime rally
following a rough first half for their rim (they shot just
7-for-24).

Though the Big Ten competition will be much tougher than this,
the unrefined Gophers showed balanced scoring -- plus enthusiasm and
hustle that has the potential to elevate them past their talent
level.

"I really feel like our team came together," said Fox, who set
up Roysland for a layup after Clausen's 3-pointer cut the lead to
40-37 and prompted Minnesota coach Pam Borton to call time-out with
13:14 left.

On a busy night at the east end of campus, with the women's
volleyball and men's hockey teams also playing within a few yards
of Williams Arena, a crowd announced at 5,189 people came out to
watch a new-look squad that will be led by Kelly Roysland, the only
senior, and Fox, a flashy sophomore.

Roysland had 10 points on 5-for-10 shooting, but it was Fox and
Ohm who helped Minnesota hold off a surge by the Panthers shortly
after halftime and win the opener for the seventh straight year.

Fox shot just 5-for-17, but she grabbed five of her team's 53
rebounds, had two steals and served as the energy source of a
three-guard lineup that will need to run often and push a fast
tempo to succeed with an inexperienced, thin group of post players.

Zoe Harper (6-foot-3) and backup Ashley Ellis-Millan (6-foot-2)
have the size underneath, but they combined to shoot 6-for-15,
showing little lift on their lay-ups and a raw finish around the
basket. Knight was only 2-for-10 from the floor.

Freshman Korinne Campbell had eight points and 10 rebounds off
the bench, though, and the Gophers were able to overwhelm Northern
Iowa with their strength in and around the lane -- and their
backcourt's speed.

Freshman Brittany McCoy, the other starter, had 11 points, six
rebounds and four assists.

"If they can do that against size and against big, aggressive
kids, they're going to cause people some problems," DiCecco said.
"There's the makings here of a very good basketball team."

A three-point play by Ohm with 8:05 remaining made it 53-45, and
her 3-pointer shortly thereafter lifted Minnesota to a 58-47
advantage.

"Every single person on this team made a big shot, and I think
this is the way this basketball team has to win this year," Borton
said.