Men’s Basketball: Northwestern upsets Minnesota to snag second straight win


Daily file photo by Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Vic Law slams the ball home. The freshman forward hit three 3-pointers against the Golden Gophers in a winning Wildcats effort.

Bobby Pillote, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern has found a winning formula late in the season.

Days after stunning Iowa at Welsh-Ryan Arena, the Wildcats (12-14, 3-10 Big Ten) pulled off another upset, this time beating Minnesota (16-11, 5-9) on the road, 72-66, for NU’s second consecutive conference victory. The win is also the second in a row at the Williams Arena for NU.

“This is not an easy place to win,” coach Chris Collins said after the game on WGN Radio. “(Minnesota) is tough to play against, they’re so quick … but our guys are confident. We’re really playing confident basketball right now, and we’ve found something with the zone.”

The Cats went back to the 2-3 zone of defense that worked so well against the Hawkeyes, and reaped many of the same results. The Golden Gophers were held to 36 percent shooting from beyond the arc, and Nebraska’s leading scorer, senior guard Andre Hollins, didn’t make a basket in the first half.

Nonetheless the Golden Gophers had a nice cushion early. After some back and forth in the opening minutes, Minnesota pushed out to a 7-point lead with seven minutes left in the half, only to see NU roar back with a swift 12-0 run.

That surge came with Alex Olah on the bench, but the junior center played a massive role in the victory. The rim protector and centerpiece of the 2-3 set finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Sophomore forward Nathan Taphorn also reprised his role from the Iowa game, coming off the bench to score 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting. He also handled Minnesota’s defensive pressure well as NU’s primary inbounder. The Golden Gophers have been averaging 10.3 steals per game this season, but forced just five against the Cats.

“They press the whole game, and I thought we handled their pressure great,” Collins said on WGN. “And it helps when you make shots.”

Offensively, NU had a balanced performance with four of five starters finishing the night with double-digit point totals. Freshman guard Scottie Lindsey started the night off hot, nailing two 3s in the first three minutes and totaling 10 points. Junior guard Tre Demps added 11 points, five rebounds and seven assists, and freshman guard Bryant McIntosh led the way with a game-high 17 points while also contributing six assists.

Freshmen forwards Vic Law and Gavin Skelly both shone coming off the bench. Law hit three consecutive 3s in the second half, while Skelly once again spelled Olah, recording three blocks, two rebounds and a beautiful bullet-pass assist to Taphorn.

The secret to the Cats’ success was the long ball. NU hit 15 of its 32 shots beyond the arc, drowning a Minnesota team that gave up 18 3s in its last contest against Indiana.

But perhaps most interesting about the game was how the Cats won it — without any drama or late game heroics. The game was tied at halftime, and NU took a 44-42 lead with 16 minutes to go in the second half and never looked back. The Cats led the rest of the way and hit free throws down the stretch to quietly put the Golden Gophers away.

“I was just really proud of our team,” Collins said on WGN. “You get little flashbacks, and I remember being in College Park a few weeks ago … and I said to myself ‘We’re going to be tough tonight and win this game,’ and that’s exactly what our guys did.”

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