March 13, 2008
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Lawrence Westbrook scored 11 of his career-high 17 points in the second half Thursday, and Dan Coleman added 16 points as Minnesota rallied from a 16-point deficit to beat Northwestern 55-52 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
Lawrence McKenzie had 13 points for sixth-seeded Minnesota (19-12), which will play No. 22 Indiana in Friday's quarterfinals. The Gophers likely need to at least make it to Sunday's championship game to play their way into consideration for an at-large bid and extend coach Tubby Smith's streak of 14 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.
Craig Moore's 15 points led Northwestern (8-22), but his desperation 3 at the buzzer wasn't even close. Kevin Coble and Michael Thompson added 13 each for the Wildcats, who failed to win a game in the Big Ten tournament for the third straight year.
Minnesota fell behind quickly in the first half and could never make any kind of a run with Northwestern shooting 65 percent from the floor.
That changed in a hurry after halftime.
The Gophers made seven of their first 10 shots, and Westbrook's 3-pointer capped a 21-8 run that tied the game at 42 with 12:29 left. Westbrook, whose previous career-high was 16 earlier this month against Ohio State, scored Minnesota's last nine points in the spurt and single-handedly broke down a Northwestern defense that had stymied the Gophers throughout the first half.
Moore finally halted Minnesota's run with a jumper and a 3, and the Gophers cooled off. They missed their next eight shots and went 7:29 without scoring before McKenzie made a pair of free throws with five minutes left.
Northwestern then showed its youth, committing ball-handling violations on three straight possessions. Thompson, the freshmen point guard, was called for a 10-second violation, and the Wildcats were called for a backcourt violation when Sterling Williams couldn't corral Thompson's pass without going over the line.
Coleman then reached in to snag Thompson's pass, and took it in for a thundering dunk that gave Minnesota a 48-47 lead -- its first since the opening basket of the game.
Moore's 3-pointer put the Wildcats back ahead 52-51 with 2:34 to play. But the Wildcats would not score again. Coble missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:20 left, and Coleman sealed Minnesota's victory when he wrapped Williams up on the baseline, forcing a turnover with about 4 seconds left.
Coleman was fouled, and he made both free throws.
Minnesota won despite senior center Spencer Tollackson playing only six minutes. Tollackson hurt his ankle in the first half.