Rapid Recap: Minnesota 83 Northwestern 57

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(Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman). Pat Spencer drives the lane. The grad transfer guard struggled to score Sunday against Minnesota

John Riker, Assistant Sports Editor

Northwestern’s hopes for an upset against Minnesota hinged on whether the Wildcats could stifle star center Daniel Oturu, who had handled the Cats in their first matchup this season

Oturu answered the question quickly, torching NU (6-20, 1-15 in Big Ten) from inside and out as Minnesota (13-13, 7-9) handed the Cats their 11th consecutive loss, 83-57.

The Wildcats kept pace with the Golden Gophers early, offsetting Oturu’s early dominance with three straight baskets from freshman center Ryan Young. NU found success attacking the basket with strong drives by guards Pat Spencer and Boo Buie, but Minnesota connected on five threes during the opening 12 minutes to build a 27-15 lead.

The Golden Gophers’ offense didn’t slow down. Behind 13 points from Oturu and 11 from guard Marcus Carr, Minnesota finished the half on a 17-8 run to take a commanding 16-point lead into halftime.

With just over 13 minutes left in the game, Oturu dunked once more to boost the Minnesota lead to 21. The lead would never drop below 18, and the Golden Gophers coasted to their seventh conference win.

1. Oturo strikes again

After compiling 19 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocks in Minnesota’s first matchup against NU, Oturu looked every bit the superstar in Welsh-Ryan Arena. Oturu connected on an early three-pointer, then took it to the Cats in the post with a pair of thundering dunks and six rebounds in the first frame as Minnesota took a 44-28 lead into the break.

The second half was another serving of Oturu treys, dunks and blocks, and the Minnesota native finished with 22 points, 12 boards and 3 blocks. The Wildcats have struggled against the talented big men of the Big Ten, but Oturu’s dominance was particularly emphatic.

2. Golden Gophers pick apart NU defense

Oturu wasn’t the only one who had his way on the offensive side of the floor. Minnesota shot 54.8 percent from the floor in the first half and 7-for-14 from beyond the arc, allowing them to blow by the Cats and turn the contest into a rout early on.

Even when the Golden Gophers made mistakes on offense, the Cats couldn’t capitalize, turning 10 Minnesota turnovers into just six points.

3. Buie and Young show flashes, but can’t take over

The Cats couldn’t sustain any runs on offense, though freshmen Boo Buie and Ryan Young had their share of highlight reel plays. Young scored six points in the post in the first two minutes, then was held scoreless over the next 20 minutes of regulation. Buie helped stretch the Minnesota defense with a pair of nifty stepback jumpers and scored 9, albeit on an inefficient 4-for-13 shooting clip. This February has been a cold one for the NU offense, and Sunday’s game was no different.

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