BTT Recap: (8) Northwestern Prolongs (9) Minnesota's Skid 75-65

The Conseco Fieldhouse was the site. Before the season, the Minnesota Golden Gophers had Big Ten title hopes entering the season. By contrast, the Northwestern Wildcats looked to make their first ever NCAA tournament. But neither team had either of those things happen in the regular season. 

Minnesota lost 9 of its last 10 games to close out the year, after starting out 5-3. A season-ending injury to Al Nolen and the inability to close out anyone doomed the Gophers. Despite some excellent games from Trevor Mbakwe, the season rapidly went downhill for Minnesota. Northwestern, on the other hand, managed an even keel over their last 8 games, winning and losing 4 games.

Northwestern got off to a fast start, taking a 15-8 lead early in the first. But Minnesota responded, using a 7-0 run to tie the game at 21-all, then taking their first lead of the game 24-21. After a Blake Hoffarber three gave Minnesota a 26-23 lead, the Wildcats responded by holding Minnesota to just 4 points for the rest of the half and taking the lead right back. The Wildcats led 32-30 at the end of the first half.

It was in the 2nd half that Northwestern, which had attempted 21 three-point attempts in the first half, ground down Minnesota. The Wildcats trailed 37-35, 40-38, 44-42, but they never allowed Minnesota to dominate them, tying or taking the lead after all three of those points. While Minnesota was able to take the lead, they endured several long series in which no field goals fell their way.

And eventually, Northwestern was able to seize complete control of the game, taking a 57-46 lead in the 2nd half. It was one that Minnesota was unable to threaten, partially because of Michael Thompson's 35 points, the most in a single game in Big Ten Tournament history.

Michael Thompson had an outstanding game, managing 35 points on 11 of 22 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. Drew Crawford and Alex Marcotullio pitched in 15 and 13 points, respectively, along with 6 rebounds apiece. John Shurna had just two points, and Luke Mirkovic fouled out entirely (scoring 0 points), but Shurna's 7 rebounds led the Wildcats.

Minnesota got yet another double-double from Trevor Mbakwe, who finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, along with 12 points from Ralph Sampson III, but they did not have enough offense from the rest of their team to pull out of their long tailspin. Blake Hoffarber added 13 points, and Austin Hollins 8, but no other Minnesota player approached double-figures scoring. Maverick Ahanmisi had a team-high 6 assists, but just 2 points.

Northwestern faces top-seeded Ohio State. Given Minnesota's disastrous finish and generally disappointing season, it's unlikely that they get any sort of postseason bid.

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