Battle's career night (32 points) lifts Gophers women over Rutgers in Big Ten tournament

On Wednesday night at Target Center in the first round of the Big Ten Conference women's basketball tournament, the Gophers were beat up on the boards and outshot, both in the paint and from behind the arc.

Yet they won — their first tournament victory since 2020 — for one main reason:

Amaya Battle.

She was, in a word, wonderful in Minnesota's hard-fought 77-69 victory over Rutgers on a night when Scarlet Knights post Destiny Adams was almost unstoppable. (But more on her later).

First, Battle: She had a career-high 32 points. She also contributed seven assists and five rebounds.

And no turnovers.

It was, no question, the best game Battle, a former Hopkins High School star, has played in a Gophers uniform.

Now, there were other reasons why the Gophers (16-14 overall) won for just the second time in 11 games and for the first time in a conference tournament game since 2020.

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BOXSCORE: Gophers women 77, Rutgers 69

Freshman Grace Grocholski was also in double figures, with 12 points, including two game-sealing free throws late. Nia Holloway also had a career game with seven points and nine rebounds on a night when the Gophers struggled mightily on the boards. She had the unenviable task of taking on Adams on the defensive end.

But Battle: She made 10 of 20 shots from the field. The rest of the Gophers were 14-for-39. Battle scored 14 points in the first quarter and 10 in the fourth.

And Minnesota needed all of those points.

Because Adams was having a career night, too, for Rutgers (8-24).

She scored 31 points and added 24 rebounds and three assists.

The game was tied at 61 when Rutgers' Lisa Thompson scored with 7:13 remaining.

But Battle scored on a pull-up. Moments later, she fed Mallory Heyer for a three. Battle also hit two free throws, then another bucket with 3:33 left. Minnesota was on a 9-2 run. Battle had six of them and assisted on the other three, and the Gophers led by seven.

Battle came out firing, scoring two buckets and assisting on a third as the Gophers got off to a 9-4 lead.

For Battle, it really didn't stop. She made six of nine shots, her only three-point attempt and had an assist, scoring 14 points in the first quarter.

Up just two points after Adams made one of two free throws with 1:14 left in the quarter, the Gophers ended the quarter on an 8-0 run to go up 10 entering the second. That run started with Battle scoring off the rebound of her own miss. Then she fed Mallory Heyer for a three-pointer. Then she hit a three of her own in the closing seconds to put the Gophers up 24-14.

That lead grew to 12 when Grocholski drove for a score with 7:33 left in the first half.

Over the next five minutes, Rutgers, getting three-pointers from three players, went on a 15-2 run to take a one-point lead on Adams' putback with 2:21 left in the half.

Much of that run came with Battle on the bench with two fouls. But, out of a timeout, Gophers coach Dawn Plitzuweit put Battle back in, and she immediately fed Ayianna Johnson for two buckets. Grocholski's two free throws with four seconds left in the half put the Gophers up 39-35 despite the fact Rutgers was 6-for-11 on three-pointers and was shooting 54.5%.

Even with Adams still having her way — she had 10 points and eight rebounds in the third quarter — the Gophers were up seven when Heyer hit one of two free throws with 2:51 left.

But by the time the quarter ended, the Gophers, who went 5-for-16 overall and 0-for-6 on three-pointers in the third, were up just one point.