Happy days are here again. After 10 consecutive games mired in sadness and defeat, Northwestern (12-14, 3-10) has flipped the script and now is in a two-game winning streak after an impressive 72-66 road win over Minnesota (16-11, 5-9).
The 'Cats went 15-of-32 from three-point land, accounting for 62.5 percent of their points while setting a new team season-high for threes in a game. Five players scored in double figures (and Vic Law added nine) in perhaps NU's best all-around scoring efforts thus far. Bryant McIntosh led all scorers with 17, and Alex Olah led all rebounders with 8, a perfect recipe for success.
Early on, the ‘Cats appeared to be riding a wave of confidence from their big home win over Iowa, shooting 58 percent in the first 10 minutes. But the Gophers grabbed an early 11-7 rebounding edge and led 22-19 midway through the first half.
Northwestern went on a brief scoring drought to allow Minnesota to grab a seven-point lead, but threes on four consecutive possessions gave the ‘Cats a 33-28 lead with three minutes left in the half. NU hit nine threes and shot 52.9 percent from beyond the arc in the first half despite shooting just under 40 percent overall, and the teams headed to the locker room tied at 36-36.
Minnesota started the second half on a 6-0 run, but Northwestern responded with a run of its own, this one of the 16-0 variety, to take a 52-42 lead with 13 minutes left. The extended run was punctuated by three triples in a row from sudden sharpshooter Vic Law. UM followed with a small 5-0 run, but the ‘Cats still led 56-47 with 10 minutes left.
The Gophers cut NU’s lead to 60-54 with less than five minutes left, but Nathan Taphorn, wielding the scepter of clutch, responded with a three from the top of the key to keep UM at arm’s length at 63-54, and the ‘Cats never looked back.
The win catapulted Northwestern over Penn State into 12th place in the Big Ten, and the ‘Cats will face off against the Nittany Lions at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday with a chance to create more distance between the two teams.