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U women’s basketball ends losing skid with 88-63 victory over Northwestern

Looking for the kind of analysis only Amaya Battle can bring, someone asked her the key to the Gophers women's basketball team's 88-63 victory over Northwestern at Williams Arena on Saturday. A much-needed win, one that broke a six-game losing streak.

Battle leaned forward to the microphone in front of her and said:

"G."

That would be Grace Grocholski. She scored 27 points, tied for the fourth most ever scored by a Gophers freshman. She made her first eight shots overall, her first six threes. She scored Minnesota's first 13 points of the game as the Gophers took control early. Then she hit a three to start the second half that gave the Gophers a double-digit lead they never lost. She finished the day 10-for-13 overall, 6-for-7 on threes, with five rebounds and two steals.

Minnesota coach Dawn Plitzuweit said assistant coaches told her after shooting groups during Friday practice that Grocholski hardly missed.

That carried over. A pesky sore ankle finally on the mend, Grocholski has shot 18-for-26 overall, 13-for-19 on threes, and scored 50 points in her last two games.

Afterward, Grocholski was offering humility, Battle humor. To wit:

Grocholski: "When the first one goes in, it's a lot easier to make the rest of them."

Battle: "Shoutout to G."

Grocholski: "But she was getting me the ball in perfect spots."

Battle: "My answer is still G."

But it wasn't the only right answer. All five starters were in double figures. Battle had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. Mallory Heyer had 13 points, eight boards; Janay Sanders had 13 points and six assists, going 8-for-10 on free throws. Sophie Hart had 10. The Gophers (15-10, 5-9 Big Ten) had conference bests in points (88) and shooting percentage (56.1%).

Still, Minnesota only led by nine at the half because Northwestern was nearly as efficient in the first two quarters as Minnesota.

That changed in a 25-10 Gophers third quarter that put them up 24 entering the fourth.

"We showed a lot of toughness," Plitzuweit said. "And that's good for us, moving forward. The best sign for us wasn't that we scored the ball better and took care of the ball better but that we defended better in the third quarter."

BOXSCORE: Gophers 88, Northwestern 63

Big Ten women's basketball standings

The Gophers held the Wildcats (8-17, 3-11) to 2-for-9 shooting in the third quarter. They scored seven points off seven Northwestern turnovers, had four steals and got points from seven players, led by Heyer's eight. Up 12 midway through the third quarter, the Gophers finished the quarter with an 18-6 run over the final 4:26 that included a Grocholski three, a three-point possession spurred by Maggie Czinano's put-back of Hart's missed free throw and a four-point possession that started with Sanders going 1-for-2 on the line and Heyer turning her offensive rebound of Sanders' miss into a three-point play.

"It's really important for us," Plitzuweit said of the win. "You can talk about doing the little things well, but when you experience it and see it come to fruition, it's a whole different thing."

Plitzuweit said she couldn't remember a freshman having the kind of game Grocholski had Saturday, as efficient.

"You just keep putting in the preparation and everything like that, you keep shooting and they're going to fall," Grocholski said. "And yeah, they were falling tonight."

Said Battle: "Literally it was like, 'Find G.' "