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Gophers women beat Nebraska 62-58 as other scoring options deliver

To be honest, she said, there are a lot of particulars about the play Amaya Battle doesn't remember. Only that the shot clock was winding down and Mara Braun passed her the ball. So she shot it.

And right away, she knew. "It did feel good,'' Battle said.

Battle's three-pointer with nine seconds left in the game and four seconds left on the shot clock sealed the Gophers' 62-58 victory Sunday in front of a Williams Arena crowd of 5,958 that numbered 98 alumni, including former coach Lindsay Whalen.

It was the last word in a win filled with runs, rugged defense and physical rebounding from start to finish. It came despite top scorers Braun and Grace Grocholski going a combined 2-for-20 from the field and because of unceasing effort and a bench that played its best game so far early in the Big Ten Conference season.

"I think it shows our toughness as a team," said forward Mallory Heyer, who led the Gophers in scoring (16 points), rebounding (seven) and three-pointers (two). She started and finished a 12-0 run to end the third quarter that put the Gophers up 46-38, a run that came after Nebraska had used a 17-0 run to take a four-point lead.

"We had so many girls step up today, and that was amazing," Heyer said. "Our bench, shout-out to them."

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Battle scored 11 points and added five assists and four rebounds. Janay Sanders scored 11 points — and drew 10 fouls — in 18½ minutes of playing time off the bench. Gophers reserves scored 18 points and had 11 rebounds. And Minnesota (13-3, 3-2 Big Ten) needed every one to beat the Huskers (12-5, 4-2), who hit the boards relentlessly in the second half. Alexis Markowski had 17 points and 14 rebounds for Nebraska, which scored all 18 of its second-chance points in the second half. Jaz Shelley contributed 12 points and eight assists.

Braun, a sophomore, entered the game second in the Big Ten in scoring, and Grocholski was second among freshmen. Neither hit a field goal until Braun's three-pointer put the Gophers up 57-47 with 3:16 left in the game. That the Gophers were able to win their second consecutive conference game anyway speaks to where the team is at this point.

"It shows we're improving," coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. "We're progressing, we're getting a little better. And that's something we've got to continue to do."

The poise was there throughout the game.

A slew of offensive rebounds fueled that 17-0 run that put Nebraska up 38-34 on Natalie Potts' basket with 4:51 left in the third quarter. But Heyer hit a three to end the bleeding, then hit another at the end of the quarter.

BOXSCORE: Gophers 62, Nebraska 58

The Cornhuskers were down 59-50 after Braun's steal and score with 2:18 left, but Callin Hake scored five points in an 8-0 run to pull Nebraska to within a point on Hake's bucket with 44 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Heyer drew a foul with 25 seconds remaining, 20 on the shot clock. In the huddle during a timeout, Plitzuweit's plan was to use up as much of the shot clock as possible. Braun was expected to take the final shot. But she was double-teamed, so she passed to Battle. Afterward, Battle reflected on how different that seemed. On most days, she would be the one passing to Braun for the final shot.

"It was a timely shot," Plitzuweit said. "We didn't have momentum on our side at that point. We needed to find a way to score."

Battle did.