A nail-biter 55-54 win in the Twin Cities brought Northwestern above .500 and to fourth place in the tightly-contested Big Ten.
"We were able to grind it out in the end," said senior forward Drew Crawford, who led all scorers with 17 points. "Minnesota is an incredibly tough team and they pressed use the whole game. Their energy and playing in this building is tough. For us to band together and get a win is great."
A battle of two different tempos—Northwestern with a grind-it-out style; Minnesota with a run-and-gun—the Wildcats controlled the game's pace. The Golden Gophers enjoyed success on offense, shooting 46 percent and only having eight turnovers, yet the Wildcats were able to keep the ball for long possessions and work the clock.
When it came to crunch time, Northwestern was ready to close.
"Our key guys down the stretch, they wanted the ball," said coach Chris Collins. "Tre [Demps] hit the key shot, then we were able to hold them off."
NU was led by Crawford's 17 points, while Jershon Cobb followed with 15 and Demps with 11. Minnesota's Maurice Walker led the Gophers with 14 points and Austin Hollins chipped in with 13. But, once again for the Wildcats, defense was the story.
"We won this game with our defense on the last play," said Sanjay Lumpkin, a Minnesota native playing in front of dozens of friends and family members. "That's been our staple and lot of teams are starting to take notice that we're a tough team."
The turnaround for Northwestern is nothing short of impressive. The Wildcats opened Big Ten play with three blowout losses and few hopes of postseason success—or even a berth. Now, it's a very realistic possibility.
Collins is keeping his Wildcats' eyes ahead to each game, not the possibility of playing on past the regular season.
"We're the same team people were talking about when we were 0-3 and lost three games by 23 points," Collins said. "Those are the same kids, I'm the same coach.
"For us, it's about focusing on the next game. We're not talking about the postseason, we're talking about the next game."