Gopher women open Plitzuweit era with 92-57 win

A season-opening win over a mid-major foe, even a season-opening 92-57 rout over such a foe, can be somewhat lacking in predictive value as one looks ahead to the coming 2023-2024 Minnesota Gopher women’s basketball season. But, we’re already on record here at Northstar Hoops saying that Dawn Plitzuweit may prove to be the best and most successful Gopher women’s coach ever. To that we’ll add that the season-opening 92-57 rout over Long Island U. was just about what one might have hoped for but not quite expected. In other words, so far so good.

The Gophers roared out to a 34-9 lead after one period thanks to 7-of-12 3-point shooting. Mara Braun led the way early, along the way to 25 total points on 9-of-15 shooting and 5-of-11 3s.

But what was most impressive was the depth that coach Plitzuweit’s Gophers showed, as 12 Gophers played in the game and 11 of them scored. Along with Braun’s 25 points, the highlights for the Gophers included:

• 6-5 junior center Sophie Hart from Farmington, who started her college career at North Carolina State, started the game and played very well in the early going. She finished 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, with 6 rebounds, again with much of her production coming early (in the 1st period).

• 5-11 true freshman wing Grace Grocholski also started the game and finished with 10 points and 4 boards on 4-of-10 shooting.

• Sophomore forward Mallory Heyer did more or less what was expected with 10 points and 8 boards on 4-of-9 shooting.

• Amaya Battle was the 5th starter. She scored just 3 points, but took just 3 shots, making one. She had 6 rebounds.

There were several positive surprises off the bench:

• Niamya Holloway, a 6-foot redshirt freshman who missed all of last season due to injury, came off the bench to post 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting plus 6 rebounds.

• Graduate student guard Janay Sanders, a transfer from Appalachian State, played well off the bench with 4 points on 1-of-4 shooting plus 3 rebounds.

• Ajok Madol, a 6-2 true freshman from Canada, scored 7 points on 3-of-5 shooting.

• 6-3 true freshman Aiyanna Johnson from Wisconsin scored 3 points on 1-of-2 shooting.

• Maggie Czinano contributed 6 points on 3-of-6 shooting plus 3 rebounds.

• True freshman Brynn Senden from Wayzata scored 2 points off the bench.

The Gophers were 11-19 a year ago including 4-14 in the Big 10. We’ve predicted that the Gophers will go 16-15 this year including 7-11 in the Big 10. One non-conference win over one mid-major doesn’t have a whole lot of predictive value but, still, there was nothing in Wednesday night’s win to suggest that a little bit of optimism isn’t warranted.