Northwestern surprises Minnesota, 55-54
FEB 01, 2014 4:41p ET
Tre Demps had 11 points for the Wildcats (12-11, 5-5 Big Ten), who moved into fourth place in the conference with their fifth victory in their last seven games.
The Gophers (15-7, 4-5) had the ball at the end, but DeAndre Mathieu's layup was short and Mo Walker's putback was off, too, before the final buzzer went off. Walker scored 14 points and Austin Hollins had 13 points, six rebounds and three steals, but the Gophers went 3 for 14 from 3-point range, 5 for 9 from the free-throw line and missed multiple short shots down the stretch.
Hollins, the senior swingman who has been quiet in Big Ten play, gave the Gophers a big lift in the second half. His 3-pointer from the corner tied the game at 40, after they missed nine of their first 10 behind-the-arc attempts, and his dunk made it 50-all.
Demps coolly swished a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 55 seconds left, but Mathieu answered with a layup to pull Minnesota within one point. Demps airballed a jump shot on the next possession, setting the Gophers up for the win. But they fell for the second straight game, coming off an 82-78 loss at Nebraska last Sunday.
Northwestern's last three-game Big Ten road winning streak, according to the Big Ten Network, was 54 years ago. After losing six nonconference contests -- no other team in the league dropped more than four this season -- the Wildcats have come to life under first-year head coach Chris Collins.
Facing Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa was a brutal way to start Big Ten play, but they soon found their niche and surged up the standings. Despite entering the weekend last in the conference in scoring, shooting and rebounding margin, the Wildcats have already beaten Illinois and Wisconsin, both ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 at the time, and at Indiana's intimidating Assembly Hall.
Northwestern limited its lasts six opponents to a cumulative 32.5 shooting percentage from the floor, including a 26.3 mark for Wisconsin in Madison earlier this week.
Crawford, the Big Ten's active leading scorer, has been the catalyst, of course, with 67 points over the last three games. He had two of the five 3-pointers the Wildcats made in their first eight attempts of the first half, a big reason they were able to build a lead and maintain a 32-29 edge at the break.
The Gophers used an 18-4 run to get right back in the game, though, and Walker was their go-to guy in the post again. They had a 36-14 advantage in points in the paint, despite the key misses from close range in the second half.
But Minnesota was certainly feeling the absence of leading scorer Andre Hollins again. Their junior shooting guard sat out for essentially the third straight game, and after dominating Wisconsin here without him they had trouble defending the perimeter at Nebraska and with creating their own shots against Northwestern.
After matching his career high with 29 points on 8-for-12 shooting from 3-point range against Nebraska, Malik Smith went 1 for 9 from behind the arc to finish with seven points in this game. The Gophers, who lead the Big Ten in free-throw shooting, were only 16 for 25 from the line at Nebraska as well.
Minnesota has lost five of the last eight games against Northwestern, averaging just over 55 points in those defeats.