Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Northwestern Wildcats were unable to duplicate the efforts displayed in their previous two Wednesday night home victories against Indiana and Purdue as they fell to Minnesota 73-61. "> Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Northwestern Wildcats were unable to duplicate the efforts displayed in their previous two Wednesday night home victories against Indiana and Purdue as they fell to Minnesota 73-61. ">

NU vs. Minnesota Post-Game Digest

Wednesday night against the </font><b><font color="#990000">Minnesota Golden Gophers</font></b>, the <b><font color="#330033">Northwestern Wildcats</font></b> were unable to duplicate the efforts displayed in their previous two Wednesday night home victories against <b><font color="#CC0000">Indiana</font></b> and <b>Purdue</b> as they fell to </font><b><font color="#990000">Minnesota</font></b> 73-61.

From the onset, the cold-shooting Wildcats dug themselves into a hole that they could not escape.Minnesota controlled the opening tip and junior forward Michael Bauer promptly drained a trey to give Minnesota a lead that it would never relinquish.
The Golden Gophers challenged Northwestern with a full-court press that gave the Wildcats the fits in the first half.  The Minnesota defense created ten first-half turnovers and prevented Northwestern from setting up its motion offense as the Wildcats went scoreless for the initial six-and-a-half minutes of the game.  By halftime, Minnesota led the lifeless Wildcats 35-15.

Minnesota stormed out of the locker room in the second half and extended its lead to 44-17 before Northwestern was forced to call a timeout to regroup with 16:54 remaining.

The Wildcats came to life on the offensive boards in the second half and the resulting second-chance points began to chip away at the 27-point deficit.  Northwestern also picked up its defensive pressure and began to take advantage of Minnesota miscues.

The Wildcats whittled the Minnesota lead down to 11 points after freshman point guard T.J. Parker buried a deep three and freshman guard Mohamed Hachad stole the ball to set up a basket in the paint by junior Jitim Young with 5:02 to play.

With 2:26 remaining and momentum clearly on the side of the Wildcats, Northwestern cut the Minnesota lead all the way down to five points when Young put back a missed three-point attempt by freshman guard Evan Seacat.

On the following possession, senior forward Jason Burke [AP Photo-Brian Kersey left] almost came up with a steal that would have given Wildcats the ball and a legitimate chance for an improbable comeback.  Burke couldn't control the ball, however, and wound up fouling Minnesota forward/center Rick Rickert, who went to the line and knocked down both free-throws to extend Minnesota's lead back to seven points.

Mohamed Hachad then missed a hasty three-point attempt from the corner and was beaten for an easy layup by Minnesota's Hargrow coming back the other way to extend the Gopher lead back to a comfortable nine points with 1:29 to play.

Once Northwestern was forced to foul to stop the clock, Minnesota controlled its own destiny and knocked down six-of-six free throws en route a 12-point road victory.

The loss dropped Northwestern's record to 10-13, 2-10 in the Big Ten.
Minnesota improved to 15-7, 7-4 and stayed within one game of the conference leaders in the Big Ten.

The Wildcats were led in scoring by Jitim Young with 18 points.  Minnesota was led by Rick Rickert with 22 points and a career-high 13 rebounds [his first career double-double].

Trying everyone, everything
For the first time this Big Ten season, Northwestern had eight players on its ten-man roster log more than ten minutes on the floor.  Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody has been criticized for exclusively playing with a six or seven-man rotation.

When asked about freshman Evan Seacat's [NU Photo right] increased playing time, Carmody said,

I want to get him in there. Eventually, he's going to make shots. Even though he wasn't making them [tonight], I want to leave him in there and let him get his feet wet because I don't see anyone else knocking [shots] down. So, I'm going to stick with that.

Curiously, freshman forward Jimmy Maley, who started 11 games for the Wildcats earlier in the season, was never inserted into the lineup Wednesday night.

The upcoming tilt
The Wildcats play an "away" game this Saturday, February 22 against the red-hot University of Illinois Fighting Illini at Chicago's United Center. The game will be televised nationally by CBS, a first for Northwestern.
Game time is set for 1 p.m. CST.

After the Wednesday loss, Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody made light of the stiff challenge that the Illini present his team:

I watched the [Illinois] game last night against Michigan State and I think I'm coming down with something.  I might not be able to make that game.  [I'd like to] see if the Bulls want to take our place there because Illinois looked fantastic.  They were just unbelievable last night.  After this kind of showing, we'll just have to go back and just try to figure out if there's any way.  That Michigan State team is a big, powerful team and they looked like little boys out there [against Illinois].  We have our work cut out for us.

Gregory Kane covers Northwestern basketball for Purple Reign/PurpleWildcats.com.  He also posts on Northwestern message boards as "go cats go".  Gregory can be reached at gregoryjkane@yahoo.com.
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