Gopher Glory: Women’s Basketball Triumphs Through Trials

Last night, the Minnesota Golden Gopher women’s basketball team stepped off their bus, their emotions as varied as their playing styles. Freshman Ayianna Johnson sported a bright smile, while Mallory Heyer exuded a serious demeanor. Bundled against the chill, they posed for photos before boarding the Sun Country jet bound for Lincoln, Nebraska, where they are scheduled to clash against the Huskers at 4 p.m. today.

As the season draws to a close, with the final game of the regular season slated for March 3rd against Penn State, the Minnesota Gophers stand as a testament to resilience in the face of adversity. A pivotal moment occurred on January 28th when Mara Braun’s injury during a game against Illinois left a void in the team. Last game, Sophie Hart joined the sidelined players due to a bruised hip, further testing the team’s depth. However, under the leadership of first-year coach Dawn Plitzuweit, the Gophers have shown significant improvement from the previous season, securing 15 wins compared to 11 wins under Lindsey Whalen.

“We still have a lot of quality players on this team, and people are starting to find their new roles, and we are banding together,” shared junior center Sophie Hart, reflecting the team’s unwavering spirit.

With a record of 15-11 (5-10 in the B1G), the Gophers gear up to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who stand at 19-9 (10-6 B1G), in their 31st encounter. Nebraska holds a slight advantage in the series, leading 16-14. However, Minnesota clinched a victory in their earlier matchup this season. Nebraska enters the game on a hot streak, winning four of their past five games, including a notable victory over then No. 2/2 Iowa.

Nebraska’s dynamic duo, center Alexis Markowski and guard Jaz Shelley, present a formidable challenge for the Gophers. Markowski, leading the league in double-doubles, and Shelley, recognized as AP National Player of the Week, have been instrumental for the Huskers this season. Another key matchup to watch is between the Gophers’ Grace Grocholski and the Huskers’ forward Natalie Potts, both contenders for Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

In their previous game against the Wisconsin Badgers, the Gophers fell short, with Amaya Battle leading the team in scoring. The absence of key players has tested the team’s resilience, but junior center Sophie Hart remains optimistic about the team’s potential.

The Gophers are determined to turn things around today as they lock horns with the Huskers at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Coach Plitzuweit stresses the importance of pre-determining game strategies and adjusting quickly. “Frustration can’t lead to losing that poise you need to have. We’ll continue to grow and improve, and I think our kids want to do that,” she affirmed.

The last home game of the regular season for the Gophers, against Iowa on Feb 28th, is already sold out in Minneapolis, a testament to the basketball phenomenon Caitlin Clark. As the season nears its end, the Minnesota Gophers want to “find a way” in their pursuit of victory, embodying resilience, determination, and unwavering team spirit.

Watch today’s game at 4pm on Big TenPlus: Here

Listen on KFAN: Here

Chat with us on the Gopher Women’s Basketball message board: Here


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