Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Thompson’s record-breaking performance leads NU past Minnesota in first round of Big Ten Tournament

Another game, another monster effort from Michael Thompson. Eight days after willing his team to an emotional senior-day victory over Minnesota, Thompson pestered, puzzled and pounded the Golden Gophers once again, leading Northwestern to a 75-65 victory.

Thanks to Thompson’s herculean effort-the senior guard notched a Big Ten Tournament single-game record of 35 points-the Wildcats advance to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament for the second consecutive year. NU will face No. 1 Ohio State on Friday at 11 a.m.

“I’m just happy my team came out and we were able to get a win,” Thompson said. “As a team, we did a good job of moving the ball around and just finding the right guys, and everyone stepped up and made shots.”

Thompson’s career-high 35 points came on 11-for-22 shooting from the field and a perfect 8-for-8 mark from the charity stripe. The senior has now converted a school-record 28 consecutive free throws.

“Well, I say this all the time – (Thompson) is our leader out there and he does an unbelievable job leading the team,” sophomore forward Drew Crawford said. “Whether it’s passing the ball, scoring it, or just running the team. He had an unbelievable game, and him getting going really helps us get going as a team.”

Thanks in part to Thompson’s 13 first half points, the Cats went into the locker room at halftime with a two-point lead. But the Gophers quickly erased that after a 10-6 run to open the second half. With Crawford and leading-scorer John Shurna struggling to find the basket, Thompson took charge, scoring nine points in the first seven minutes of the second stanza. A few minutes later, with Carmody’s crew down two, a trio of treys – from Thompson, sophomore guard Alex Marcotullio and junior guard Nick Freundt – vaulted the Cats on a 13-1 run.

Freshman guard JerShon Cobb was sidelined with a hip/groin injury on Thursday and senior guard Mike Capocci sat out with a concussion, so coach Bill Carmody turned to Marcotullio. And his move paid off. Making his first start since Dec. 23, Marcotullio rewarded Carmody with 13 points, six rebounds and a pair of steals. The sophomore southpaw failed to score in losses to Penn State and Wisconsin, but in NU’s last two games Marcotullio has recorded 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Carmody said Thompson’s electric play has rubbed off on backcourt partner Marcotullio.

“As the captain and leader, you have to bring your team along,” Carmody said. “(Thompson) has done a remarkable job in his own game and the way he’s played in just bringing some of these other guys along.”

NU’s lead never dipped below 10 for the final nine minutes of the closing half, thanks in part to the Gophers’ inability to get in a rhythm on offense. After Blake Hoffarber’s three-pointer with 15 minutes remaining in the contest, it took Minnesota 11 minutes to make another shot from outside the paint.

Shurna’s roller-coaster season continued, as the junior forward only managed a pair of points. His main contribution came on the boards, as he pulled down a team-high seven rebounds. Meanwhile, junior centers Davide Curletti and Luka Mirkovic combined for just five boards. In 37 minutes, Curletti and Mirkovic recorded three points and nine fouls.

While the top-ranked Buckeyes have only lost twice all year, the Cats came within one point of an upset on Jan. 29. Shurna sat out that game with concussion symptoms, and Thompson led NU with 16 points. Carmody said Cobb will not play Friday while Capocci is day-to-day.

“(The Buckeyes) don’t all have to perform well on a given day, certain guys can have just just average games and they can win big,” Carmody said. “So it’s a big challenge for us. But that’s why we’re here.”

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Thompson’s record-breaking performance leads NU past Minnesota in first round of Big Ten Tournament