Rapid Reax: Minnesota 75, N'western 68
March, 8, 2012
By Myron Medcalf | ESPNChicago.com
INDIANAPOLIS — Reaction from Minnesota's 75-68 overtime victory over Northwestern:
Overview: Northwestern entered its first-round matchup against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament Thursday needing a win, maybe multiple victories, to earn its first-ever NCAA tournament invitation. But the Wildcats never made it past the Golden Gophers, suffering a loss that damaged their hopes of dancing for the first time.
The Gophers jumped out to a 15-5 lead less than seven minutes in, but the Wildcats were 9-for-20 from beyond the arc before halftime, which helped them climb back into the game and take a 36-34 lead at the break.
Andre Hollins hit a big 3-pointer with 5 minutes to play that tied the game at 57. And he scored on a crucial drive with 55.2 seconds to play that established a 61-61 tie; that shot ultimately sent the game into overtime.
In the extra period, the Gophers played big. Austin Hollins hit a 3-pointer with just under three minutes on the game clock that put Minnesota ahead 68-64. Yet Northwestern was within one in the final 90 seconds of overtime before another Andre Hollins layup extended the lead to three.
A Rodney Williams dunk with 27.9 seconds to go put the Gophers ahead by five.
The two teams split their two conference games, with the Gophers taking a 75-52 victory in Minneapolis on Jan. 22 and Northwestern returning the favor in a 64-53 win in Evanston, Ill., on Feb. 18.
Turning point: Andre Hollins’ 3-pointer near the five-minute mark started a final push by the Gophers, who ended up sending the game into overtime. They were looking for a catalyst in the final minutes and they found one in the freshman.
Key player: Last year, Andre Hollins was a star prep in the state of Tennessee. On Thursday, he looked like a young collegiate star as he carried the Gophers with clutch shots and big plays. He scored a game-high 25 points and went 5-for-10 from beyond the arc.
Key stat: The Gophers outrebounded the Wildcats 41-24. Both teams shot 42.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Miscellaneous: The Gophers played without injured center Ralph Sampson III … The two teams were 16-for-35 combined from beyond the arc in the first half.
What’s next: The Gophers will face Michigan on Friday night. Northwestern will sweat on Selection Sunday as it awaits its postseason destination.