Rapid Recap: Minnesota 51, Northwestern 46


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Boo Buie dribbles the basketball. Buie had seven points in Northwestern’s season-ending Big Ten Tournament loss to Minnesota.

Patrick Andres, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

The first game of the 2021 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament pitted Northwestern against Minnesota Wednesday evening, with the Wildcats in search of their fourth straight win and a potential date with No. 9 Ohio State on Thursday afternoon.

NU mounted an impressive comeback, but collapsed late, giving up 12 straight points in the final minutes to seal its fate. The Cats’ 51-46 loss marked their third straight first round exit in the conference tourney.

Both teams came out shooting poorly, with 2:51 lapsing before Golden Gophers’ guard Marcus Carr laid the ball in to score the first points for either team. Minnesota led 7-0 at the under-16 timeout, as NU’s first seven field goal attempts were all for naught. The Cats finally scored 6:55 into the game, via a floater from junior guard Ryan Greer. It was the only basket NU could muster up to the midpoint of the first half, as the Gophers built an 11-2 lead.

The Cats’ offense took tentative steps toward waking up as halftime neared, as junior forward Miller Kopp scored five straight points for NU. Minnesota sophomore Tre’ Williams immediately hit his second three-pointer of the evening, however, as the Gophers proved resilient and maintained a double-digit lead at the under-four timeout. The Cats got layups from redshirt junior guard Anthony Gaines and redshirt sophomore center Ryan Young out of the media timeout, and narrowed Minnesota’s advantage to 27-20 at the half.

Turnovers dominated the early minutes of the second half before junior forward Pete Nance hit a jumper to pull NU within 27-22. The lead continued to shrink as redshirt sophomore guard Chase Audige picked off a bad pass and scored off a dunk, but another Williams three put the Gophers up 32-25 as Minnesota coach Richard Pitino called timeout. Neither team could gain a foothold as the 10-minute mark neared; with 11:38 to go, the teams had combined on eight second-half field goals and 11 turnovers.

Finally, the Cats made a breakthrough. A Kopp layup moved NU within four, and sophomore guard Boo Buie connected on a three-pointer to shave the Gophers’ lead to 36-35. Moments later, Nance splashed his own three to tie the game at 38 with 8:58 to go. A Kopp layup with 7:02 left gave the Cats their first lead of the ballgame.

Minnesota showed signs of falling apart shortly thereafter. With 4:56 to play, Nance rebounded and laid in a Gaines free throw miss, and sophomore forward Robbie Beran drained a three-pointer 41 seconds later that put NU up 46-39. Once again, the Gophers turned to Williams, whose three with 3:25 left made it a one-possession game. Carr followed with a made jumper to bring Minnesota back within 46-45, and scored again with 1:58 left to give Minnesota a 47-46 lead.

With 1:12 to go, Buie fouled Carr on a three-point attempt, and he drained a pair of free throws. Buie’s ensuing three-point attempt was off the mark, and the Cats’ defeat was all but assured.


1. Failure to launch works to Minnesota’s benefit

Kopp missed NU’s first shot. Nance missed its second. So began an unsightly first half in which the Cats passed the first 6:55 without scoring and shot 26 percent from the field, making just eight of their 31 field goal attempts and two of their 10 three-point tries. The opening minutes bore a resemblance to NU’s February 25 comeback win over the Gophers, in which the Cats trailed 17-3 with 12:07 left in the first half. NU mounted a similar comeback, but couldn’t finish the job this time around.

2. Minnesota’s turnovers keep NU within striking distance

The Gophers’ carelessness with the basketball was manifested in nine first-half turnovers, nearly matching their season average of 10.4 turnovers per game. Minnesota committed three in a 26-second span late in the first half, and added five more before the under-16 media timeout in the second. All told, the Gophers lost the basketball 17 times, tied for their sixth-highest total of the season; such mistakes kept the Cats from being blown out and keyed their second-half resurgence.

3. NU induces Carr trouble – but gets run over late

Carr entered the evening averaging 19.6 per game on the season, having recorded a quartet of 30-point games including a 41-point outing on February 27 at Nebraska. Led by Audige and Gaines, the Cats largely hounded him into inefficacy, as he scored just 10 points on 10 field goal attempts. However, he came up huge in the game’s waning minutes, nailing the go-ahead bucket with 1:58 on the clock to send the Gophers to the second round.

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