Gophers overcome slow start to beat Northwestern 69-51
Minnesota up just 17-14 at half before cruising to 18-point victory
It took Minnesota a half to start to get the tempo where it wanted Sunday night against Northwestern. Once the game sped up, the ninth-ranked Gophers were able to cruise to a 69-51 victory over the Wildcats.
Austin Hollins made five second-half 3-pointers and scored 19 points to lead Minnesota. Rodney Williams added nine points for the Gophers. Northwestern got 11 points from Reggie Hearn while Dave Sobolewski added 10.
The victory was the 10th in a row for the Gophers (14-1, 2-0 Big Ten), and Minnesota is one of four Big Ten teams that didn't lose during the first week of conference play. The loss leaves Northwestern (9-6, 0-2) as one of four conference teams without a league victory.
Limited to only 17 points in the first half, Minnesota more aggressively pushed the ball up the floor in the opening minutes of the second half. Attacking instead of passing the ball around on the perimeter, the Gophers opened the second half on a 13-4 run. When Williams, who reached the 1,000-point mark in the victory, grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with just more than seven minutes gone in the second half, Minnesota led by 12, 30-18.
Austin Hollins then stretched Minnesota's lead to more than 20 points over the next three-plus minutes. In that stretch, Austin Hollins made five consecutive 3-pointers. His long-range shot from the right corner with 8:43 to play gave Minnesota a 45-23 lead and ended Northwestern's upset hopes. The five 3-pointers were a career high for Austin Hollins.
Minnesota's leading scorer, Andre Hollins, was limited to seven points in large part because of foul trouble.
While Minnesota entered the game averaging 75.9 points per game, the Gophers clearly didn't get the game at the pace they wanted in the first half. Extremely patient offensively, Northwestern was content to take 30 seconds or more off of the clock on every possession.
That strategy allowed the Wildcats, who lost their Big Ten opener by 28 points to Michigan, to trail by only three points at halftime, 17-14.
The two teams combined for only 12 field goals in the first half. Northwestern, behind three 3-pointers, led for much of the first 20 minutes and took a 13-11 lead when Alex Marcotullio hit a 3-pointer with 4:07 to play in the half.
The Gophers were more aggressive attacking the basket against the Northwestern zone the final minutes of the first half and scored the final six points. Minnesota regained the lead 15-13 when Joe Coleman scored at the rim with 1:41 to play. Williams added a pair of free throws with a minute left to stretch the lead to four.
NOTES: The road gets more difficult for Minnesota, the only Big Ten team that has yet to play a conference road game. The Gophers play four of their next five away from Williams Arena, including games at Illinois, No. 5 Indiana, Northwestern and Wisconsin. The only home game in that stretch is against No. 2 Michigan ... This was Northwestern's fourth game away from Welsh-Ryan Arena, and the Wildcats had won all three previous games. ... The Wildcats had Hearn back in the lineup after he missed two games because of an ankle injury.
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