Feb. 1, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS -- A stellar offensive start and a relentless defensive finish led Northwestern to a thrilling one-point victory over Minnesota, 55-54, at Williams Arena on Saturday afternoon.
It was a tale of two halves, both finishing in the Wildcats' favor. The offense led the first period, as the 'Cats shot 45.8 percent from the field, including nearly 50 percent from beyond the arc. The second half featured a bit less scoring, but NU's tenacious defense stepped up its effort yet again, securing the victory by contesting two frantic Golden Gopher shots on the final sequence of the game.
The Wildcats have now won four of their last five games overall and five of the last seven, a streak that has them sitting in fourth place in the Big Ten standings. Additionally, they can truly lay claim to the title of road warriors having bested the competition in three straight road clashes dating back to Jan. 18 at Indiana.
This third victory, against the Gophers, was certainly the closest of the trio as it featured eight lead changes and nine ties.
Three NU players shot their way into double figures when all was said and done Saturday afternoon, led by redshirt senior Drew Crawford with 17 points.
Northwestern began the game with five straight shots from downtown. Crawford started the scoring for NU with a three-point jumper, and both Kale Abrahamson and JerShon Cobb followed with triples of their own to guide the 'Cats to an early 9-5 lead.
Cobb led the parade of threes with a trio of them before halftime, and his jumper put Northwestern up, 17-9, midway through the first half.
After a red-hot start on the offensive end, NU cooled down a bit and Minnesota took advantage, stringing together a 10-point run to tie the game at 21.
With under five minutes to play in the half, the Gophers' Austin Hollins hit a layup to give Minnesota its first lead since the first minute of the game. NU managed to put an end to the Gophers' charge and, thanks to five points from Abrahamson in the final minute or so of the half, and the 'Cats held the lead, 32-29, at the break.
The two teams resumed the back-and-forth, high-energy pace in the second half. Neither team gained more than a three-point advantage at all after halftime, and with just under two minutes left, the score remained tied, 50-50.
Cobb nailed two free throws to give the visitors the lead, but Minnesota's Malik Smith answered with a short jumper and the teams entered the final minute of regulation, tied at 52.
On Northwestern's next possession, Minnesota guarded closely and effectively kept the 'Cats away from the basket. With the shot clock ticking down, Tre Demps corralled a pass at the top of the arc, stepped right up to the line, and let the shot go. Through the basket it went, and Northwestern led, 55-52, with 54 seconds left.
Minnesota hit a quick layup and, after running out nearly the entire shot clock, NU missed a jumper with 13 seconds left to set up the final possession of the game.
Minnesota's Deandre Mathieu drove to the basket and missed a layup, but Maurice Walker grabbed the rebound. Walker's short shot sailed over the basket, and the two teams scrambled for the ball on the ground as the buzzer sounded, signaling the NU victory.
Northwestern will take the week off from competition and return home to Welsh-Ryan Arena to take on Nebraska next Saturday, Feb. 8 at 12 p.m. CT. Tickets are available by calling 888-GO-PURPLE (467-8775) or visiting the ticket page on NUsports.com.
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