Northwestern 57, Minnesota 49
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Vedran Vukusic, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, had 17 points and seven rebounds to pace Northwestern in a 57-49 victory over Minnesota Saturday.
Freshman Craig Moore scored a career-high 15 points, all on 3-pointers, and Sterling Williams also added 15 points to help maintain a perfect start for the Wildcats (9-4, 2-0) in conference play. They beat lowly Purdue earlier this week.
The Gophers (9-3, 0-1) didn’t begin their Big Ten schedule in a very promising manner. Vince Grier had 15 points and seven rebounds, but two-thirds of his scoring came in the final stages of the second half with his team already way behind.
Dan Coleman had 11 points, Adam Boone had nine points and Moe Hargrow added eight points for Minnesota, which went 7-for-26 from 3-point range and was held to by far its lowest offensive output since a 66-point production in a loss at Maryland on Nov. 30.
Northwestern, which has won four straight in this series, trailed 2-0 but never again when Moore sank his first 3-pointer with just 48 seconds elapsed.
The Wildcats extended a 31-18 halftime lead to as many as 19 in the second half, when Williams saw an opening from the baseline, calmly drove into traffic and flipped in a reverse layup to make it 41-22 with less than 15 minutes remaining.
The Gophers were consistently out of their offensive rhythm, often settling too soon for 3-pointers and missing most of the few good looks they had. Hargrow’s floater with under 3 minutes to go cut the deficit to 50-40, and coach Dan Monson called timeout.
Grier made a 3-pointer to get Minnesota within seven, but Moore answered with his own swish from behind the arc. A layup by Grier made it 53-47 with 36.8 seconds left, but Minnesota was forced to foul and couldn’t get closer.
A clear consensus from preseason predictions pegged Northwestern in the bottom three of the Big Ten with Purdue and Penn State, and results from the nonconference part of the Wildcats’ schedule—including a home loss to Illinois-Chicago—did little to dispute that.
But Northwestern, despite missing senior guard Mohamed Hachad for the third straight game following an emergency appendectomy, always plays tough defense under coach Bill Carmody. The Wildcats stifled the short-handed Gophers into 30 percent shooting (6-for-20) and 11 turnovers in the first half.
Minnesota was still missing scrappy forward J’son Stamper, who hasn’t appeared in three games since spraining his right knee against Grambling on Dec. 21. Several players were sick this week, too, including starting center Spencer Tollackson who came off the bench but had only two points in limited minutes.
But the Gophers did have their three best players—the all-senior backcourt of Grier, Hargrow and Boone, which couldn’t get much of anything going. A trio of 3-pointers by Boone before halftime kept Minnesota from falling behind by even more.