Minnesota knows one win — a third this season over Northwestern — isn't nearly enough to get the Gophers off the cut line for the NCAA Tournament field of 65.
But the opportunity for Minnesota to turn its first-round victory into a bigger positive exists: Upset Indiana in the quarterfinal.
The teams played twice this season, both Indiana wins. For Minnesota to stand a chance, it must control the glass. While All-Big Ten performers Eric Gordon, the league's leading scorer, and D.J. White, who was second in scoring to Gordon, can put up 50 points combined, the team isn't a great rebounding crew outside of White.
MINNESOTA 55, NORTHWESTERN 52: The Gophers needed every last second to sneak out of the first round with a win. And if not for a critical Northwestern mistake or two, the Gophers might have left Indianapolis on Thursday to await word from the NIT selection committee.
There has never been a closer game between the No. 6 and No. 11 seeds in the Big Ten tournament.
Minnesota attempted 19 first-half shots — 10 were 3-pointers — and dug a 13-point deficit.
The Gophers battled back with a 24-8 run after trailing 34-18, which represents the largest comeback of the season for Minnesota.
Lawrence Westbrook scored 17 points, 11 in the second half, and Dan Coleman had 16 for Minnesota.
IN FOCUS: The Gophers are one win shy of 20. A victory over Indiana could boost Minnesota's RPI to a level that would grab the attention of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. The Gophers twice fell to the Hoosiers in the regular season and likely will need more than 65 points to pull the upset. More important, perhaps, is Minnesota's defense needs to bring more pressure. The Gophers forced just 11 turnovers against Northwestern on Thursday and had 13 forced turnovers against Illinois in the previous game. Minnesota continues to take care of the ball on its end of the court.
The second major key will be rebounding. Other than D.J. White, Indiana isn't special on the glass.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F Dan Coleman, C Spencer Tollackson, G Lawrence Westbrook, G Lawrence McKenzie, G Kevin Payton. Key Subs — G Blake Hoffarber; F Damian Johnson.
Minnesota 53, Purdue 65
Minnesota 55, Indiana 69
Minnesota 58, Illinois 67
Minnesota 55, Northwestern 52 (Big Ten tournament first round)
vs. Indiana, Friday, March 14 (Big Ten tournament quarterfinal)
Indiana Upset Possible?
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