Northwestern 61, Minnesota 47

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EVANSTON, Ill. (AP)—Northwestern’s defense ignited its offense Saturday and Jitim Young got to play the style of basketball that he craves.

With steals creating easy baskets, Young went up and down the floor, scoring 26 of his career-high 31 points in the second half as the Wildcats kept Minnesota winless in the Big Ten with a 61-47 victory.

“In the second half, I got a lot of baskets in the open court. Anytime I can get the ball in the open court, I’m creative and I can find a way to get it in the basket,” Young said.

Young shot 10-of-13 for the game, made 10 of 15 free throws and also hit the boards with eight rebounds.

On one pivotal play, with Northwestern trailing by a single point early in the second half, the 6-foot-2 Young crashed in and grabbed a rebound away from 6-foot-9 Humphries. As he hit the floor, Young got the ball to teammate Mohamed Hachad, who was fouled.

Hachad’s two free throws put the Wildcats up and they never trailed again.

“I think that ignited everybody. The crowd got into it,” Young said.

And so did Young.

After Hachad’s free throws, Young scored 12 straight Northwestern points and the Wildcats (8-10, 3-4) were on the way to a victory and the end to a three-game losing streak.

Humphries, the Big Ten’s leading scorer and rebounder with averages of 22.7 and 10.5 respectively, led the Gophers with 12 points and 12 rebounds, but had just one point in the second half. Minnesota lost its sixth straight game and fell to 8-11 overall and 0-7 in league play.

“They did a good job sagging in there and playing him that way. We just looked like a team that is not very confident,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said.

“We’re a frustrated basketball team, there’s no question about that. We’ve got more mental issues than physical. They got every loose ball. Once we got behind, they fed off that.”

Young’s followup basket put the Wildcats up 45-38 and then Hachad got a loose ball, drove three-quarters of the floor, made a spin move and banked in a shot for a nine-point lead.

Young later drove for a basket after a steal, hit two free throws after he was knocked to the floor during a scramble and then hit a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock as Northwestern went up by 12.

Hachad finished with 13 points for the Wildcats and also had six assists and seven rebounds.

Young was able to convert the steals, loose balls and long rebounds into quick points for Northwestern. He’s the first Northwestern player to get 30 points in a game since Evan Eschmeyer did it against Michigan State in the 1999 Big Ten tournament.

“He got activated off their defense. They got steals and got him on the break,” Monson said. “He’s a great finisher and competitor and plays as hard as anybody in this league.”

Minnesota shot just 29 percent in the second half after hitting 42 percent in the first and was 4-for-22 on 3-pointers. Brent Lawson’s 3-pointer just before the first half buzzer put the Golden Gophers ahead 26-22.

Northwestern got the lead back midway through the second half when Hachad hit a basket and two free throws and then fed Young for a driving layup. Young got inside for another basket to cap a 15-6 run and put the Wildcats ahead by five as the Gophers went nearly seven minutes without a point.

Minnesota’s Ben Johnson, who played his first two seasons at Northwestern before transferring, scored eight points in his return to Welsh-Ryan Arena. Johnson, a senior, didn’t play against the Wildcats in Evanston last year because of illness.

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