March 13, 2008
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Northwestern led by as many as 16 in the first half, but wasn't able to hold on in dropping a 55-52 decision to Minnesota in the opening round of the 2008 Big Ten Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse Thursday. Craig Moore paced the Wildcats with 15 points.
Kevin Coble and Michael Thompson added 13 each for the Wildcats (8-22).
Lawrence Westbrook had 17 points, Dan Coleman had 16 and Lawrence McKenzie added 13 points for sixth-seeded Minnesota (19-12), which will play No. 22 Indiana in Friday's quarterfinals.
Northwestern shot a blistering 64.7 percent (11-17) from the floor in the opening half of play, paced by all 13 of Coble's points. After the Golden Gophers scored the first basket of the game, the Wildcats went on a 12-3 run capped by a Coble 3-pointer to surge ahead by seven.
Leading by eight just over eight minutes into the game, NU stretched out its advantage to 15 at 31-16 with 4:53 left in the opening half.
The lead got as large as 16 before Northwestern eventually took a 34-21 edge into the break. The 'Cats limited Minnesota to 36.8 percent (7-19) shooting over the opening 20 minutes of play.
The Gophers made seven of their first 10 shots of the second half, and Westbrook's 3-pointer capped a 21-8 run that tied the game at 42 with 12:29 left.
Moore finally halted Minnesota's run with a jumper and a 3, and the Gophers cooled off. They missed their next eight shots and went 7:29 without scoring before McKenzie made a pair of free throws with five minutes left.
Coleman had a steal and a dunk that gave Minnesota a 48-47 lead -- its first since the opening basket of the game.
Moore's 3-pointer put the Wildcats back ahead 52-51 with 2:34 to play. But the Wildcats would not score again. Coble missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:20 left, and Coleman sealed Minnesota's victory when he wrapped Williams up on the baseline, forcing a turnover with about 4 seconds left.
Coleman was fouled, and he made both free throws. Moore's desperation 3-point attempt from halfcourt came up short, allowing Minnesota to escape with the comeback win.
The Associated Press contributed to this report