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Rapid Reaction: Wildcats 75, Gophers 65

3/10/2011

INDIANAPOLIS -- Here's a quick look at Northwestern's 75-65 win over Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday.

How the game was won: Northwestern senior Michael Thompson wasn't going to let his NCAA tournament dream die just yet. Thompson went off for a career-high 35 points, which included 22 second-half points. Minnesota had no answer.

Key stretch: With Minnesota leading 44-42, Northwestern went on a 13-1 run and put the game away. Alex Marcotullio and Thompson combined for 11 points in the run.

Stat of the game: Northwestern took care of the ball. The Wildcats committed just five turnovers compared to Minnesota's eight. Northwestern had been averaging 10 turnovers a game.

Player of the game: Thompson nicked himself Juice as a kid because he said his shot was pure as juice. On Thursday, he lived up to that. He drained five 3-pointers.

Minnesota player of the game: Trevor Mbakwe bounced back from a poor first half and finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds. He had just four points and three rebounds at the half.

Unsung hero of the game: Northwestern sophomore guard Alex Marcotullio was inserted in the starting lineup for the first time since December due an injury to freshman JerShon Cobb. Marcotullio didn't let the Wildcats down. He scored 13 points, grabbed six rebounds, passed out two assists and had two steals. Coming off an 18-point game, it was the first time Marcotullio had back-to-back games of double digits this season.

SportsCenter highlight of the game: Off the opening tip, Minnesota's Rodney Tip caught the ball, found a wide-open lane to the hoop and threw down a monstrous two-handed dunk.

What the game means: Northwestern will see at least one more day of Indianapolis. The Wildcats likely secured themselves at least an NIT bid. They now face Ohio State on Friday. Expect them to slow the game as slow as possible to give themselves a shot at upsetting the top-ranked Buckeyes. The plan nearly worked the last time the two teams met, and Ohio State pulled out a one-point win on Northwestern's home court. For Minnesota, it's the end of a trying season. The Golden Gophers had the making of a NCAA tournament team, but couldn't overcome a variety of adversities.