March 8, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Northwestern's slim NCAA tournament hopes took a big hit Thursday.
Minnesota rallied from a 61-57 deficit to force overtime, then scored the final six points to pull away from the Wildcats 75-68 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Next up for the 10th-seeded Gophers is No. 10 Michigan, which finished in a three-way tie for the league's regular-season title.
Andre Hollins scored a career-high 25 points and Austin Hollins scored 12 for Minnesota (19-13), which put coach Tubby Smith within one victory of No. 100 at Minnesota.
But the far bigger story is what will happen to the Wildcats (18-13), who probably needed one or two wins in Indianapolis to sew up their first NCAA bid.
Now all they can do is hope that everything breaks right in the other conference tournaments and the selection committee believes Northwestern has done enough to deserve one of the precious at-large bids.
JerShon Cobb scored a career-high 24 points and John Shurna added 21, but the Northwestern shooters went cold when it mattered most. After taking a 61-57 lead with 4:06 to go, the Wildcats made only one more basket in regulation and overtime combined.
And Minnesota was just good enough to take advantage.
The Gophers tied the score at 61 when Andre Hollins stole the ball, one of eight Northwestern turnovers, and drove in for a layup with 1:02 to play in regulation.
Both teams had chances to win it in the final 10 seconds, but Minnesota missed a mid-range jumper and Northwestern's Dave Sobolewski rushed a buzzer-beating shot that bounced off the back of the rim to force overtime.
Northwestern closed to 69-68 when Reggie Hearn made two free throws with 1:22 left in overtime, but Minnesota sealed the victory with another layup from Andre Hollins, a dunk from Rodney Williams and two free throws from Chip Armelin.
The teams combined for 22 3-pointers, 11 for each and two short of the tourney single-game record.
Before halftime, 16 of the 25 baskets came from beyond the arc.
The Gophers played without center Ralph Sampson III, who had a back injury flare up this week.