Big Ten tournament report: Gophers freshmen not interested in transfer portal

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Minnesota basketball was gutted by the NCAA transfer portal last spring. It doesn’t appear that will be the case for Lindsay Whalen’s team this year.

After a 72-67 loss to Penn State in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Wednesday at Target Center, the talk focused on the future. Even senior Isabelle Gradwell, who had just played her last collegiate game, looked ahead.

“I know they’re going to do great things in the future,” she said.

Although Minnesota finished a disappointing 11-19 overall, and 4-15 in the Big Ten Conference, the team’s freshman class — all of whom took turns leading the team in scoring throughout the season — remained a reason for optimism.

When it was noted Wednesday that parts of the team’s young core — freshmen guards Amaya Battle and Mara Braun, and sophomore Rose Micheaux — weren’t talking like players eyeing the transfer portal, Battle answered, “Definitely not, I signed a lease.”

Her roommates will be Braun, and freshman forwards Mallory Heyer and Niamaya Holloway, as it was this season. “It’s us freshies again,” Battle said. “All four of us.”

Holloway missed this entire season after blowing out her left knee in summer practice but is expects to be ready for summer workouts. Braun was the team’s leading score (15.6 ppg.), and Heyer and Battle were third and fourth behind Micheaux. Battle led the team with 4.3 assists a game.

Last season, Whalen’s team graduated five seniors, the Gophers lost six players to the portal, leaving only sophomores Micheaux, Katie Borowicz and Maggie Czinano on the roster.

While it’s unlikely that many, or any, NCAA Division I basketball teams will go through the offseason without losing a player, the Gophers’ promising freshmen say they’re coming back.

The Gophers erased an 18-point deficit before tying Wednesday’s game, 66-66, with 45 seconds left before losing in the final 30 seconds.

“This is going to make a big impact,” said Braun, who on Tuesday was named to the Big Ten all-freshman team. “We’ll play with a chip on our shoulder next year.”

Briefly

Minnesota senior guard Mi’Cole Cayton missed her final collegiate game after injuring her left knee in last Sunday’s victory over Purdue. … Penn State freshman point guard Shay Ciezki left Wednesday’s game with what appeared to be a right ankle injury. Asked if she might be available against Michigan on Thursday, coach Carolyn Kieger said, “I don’t know.”

BIG TEN WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT
Wednesday through Sunday at Target Center. All games but Sunday’s final will be televised by Big Ten Network:

Thursday

Game 3: Michigan State vs. Nebraska, 11:30 a.m.

Game 4: Penn State vs. Illinois, 25 minutes after Game 3

Game 5: Wisconsin vs. Purdue, 5:30 p.m.

Game 6: Rutgers vs. Michigan, 25 minutes after Game 5

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