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Women’s basketball: Gophers start season by routing Western Illinois

Freshman guard Mara Braun scored nine first-half points and finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four steals. Sophomore guard Katie Borowicz made 6 of 9 3-point attempts to finish with 16 points.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- In the run-up to Monday night’s season opener, a remarkably young University of Minnesota women’s basketball team insisted they will be better than anyone expects them to be.

So far, so good.

With a starting lineup featuring two freshmen and two sophomores, the Gophers came out cold in their first regular-season season game, missing their first eight shots from the field and falling behind 5-2 after seven minutes. But they recovered rather quickly.

Behind freshman guard Maura Braun, the Gophers raced to a 38-14 halftime lead and went on to blow a veteran Western Illinois team out of the Barn, 75-45, at Williams Arena.

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Mara Braun

Braun scored nine first-half points and finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four steals. Sophomore guard Katie Borowicz, who missed all of last season after surgery to relieve pressure on her spine, made 6 of 9 3-point attempts to finish with 16 points for the Gophers (1-0).

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Katie Borowicz

Freshman guard Amaya Battle had a game-high six assists, and sophomore post Rose Micheaux finished with 14 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Her short jumper with 1:35 left in the third quarter gave the Gophers a 55-25 lead, and her steal and coast-to-coast layup made it 72-42 with 1:51 left.

While Minnesota added a Top 10 recruiting class, coach Lindsay Whalen lost two expected contributors – freshman Niamaya Holloway and junior transfer Aminata Zie – to lower body injuries during preseason practice and overall welcomed 11 new players to a club that was decimated by graduations and the transfer portal.

Micheaux was the only returner with any real experience from last season, and the team lost its top three scorers to the portal. Yet after a small stumble out of the gate, the Gophers made quick work of a Western Illinois (0-1) team that returned two of their top three scorers from a team that won 14 games and went 5-13 in the Summit League.

Only Jada Thorpe, a redshirt junior guard who averaged 11.2 points a game last season, had any semblance of scoring success on Monday, finishing with a team-high eight points on 3-for-10 shooting.

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Dawson Garcia finished with a career-high-tying 28 points on 9 of 15 shooting and 8 for 11 from the free-throw line.

Not everything was perfect for Minnesota. Besides starting cold from the field, they had a handful of unforced errors among their 14 turnovers, and the posts sometimes had trouble finishing down low – most of the team’s 36 points in the paint were scored on fastbreaks and after offensive rebounds.

Which isn’t bad, especially for a team that played seven freshmen and sophomores in a 10-player rotation.

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Related Topics: MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
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