GAME NOTES: The Northwestern Wildcats shoot for another Big Ten Conference upset this afternoon, as the team settles in at Williams Arena against Minnesota.
Three nights ago, the Wildcats ramped up their defense and held down 14th- ranked Wisconsin, on the road in Madison no less, in a 65-56 victory. The win was the third in the last four outings for the program and served as revenge from earlier bout in January when the team lost at home to the Badgers, 76-49.
As for the Golden Gophers, who are an even 4-4 in conference play this season, they were taken down by Nebraska last weekend in an 82-78 final in Lincoln. Just 2-3 on the road in 2013-14, Minnesota has dominated at home with 12 wins in 13 opportunities, losing only to Michigan by three points last month.
Minnesota leads the all-time series by a mark of 93-62, and has won all but 18 of the 74 matchups played at home over the years.
Usually it is the Badgers who lock down opponents, but in this case Northwestern turned the tables and limited the home team to a mere 26.3 percent shooting from the field, 5-of-24 behind the 3-point line in the nine- point decision. Drew Crawford took control for the Wildcats with his game-high 30 points and eight rebounds, shooting 10-of-15 from the floor, while JerShon Cobb and Will Demps contributed 10 points apiece. Before fouling out, Sanjay Lumpkin responded with 12 rebounds, but also six turnovers at the Kohl Center.
Crawford, who has started all 21 games in which he has appeared, leads the way both in scoring (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg) and his efforts in the paint should be more than enough to discourage him from shooting too much behind the 3-point line where he is just 32.3 percent accurate. Cobb (11.2 ppg) is also struggling out on the perimeter at 31.5 percent and that has taken the entire squad down to 29.8 percent from 3-point range.
Of the nine field goals knocked down by Malik Smith at Pinnacle Bank Arena earlier this week, eight came from 3-point range, tying a Minnesota record, while finishing with 29 points in the loss to Nebraska. Unfortunately, while Smith was 8-of-12 from the outside, the remainder of the team was just 2-of-8 beyond the arc. DeAndre Mathieu accounted for 13 points, but at the same time was tagged for nine of the unit's 13 turnovers.
Listed as the top overall scorer for the Gophers with his 15.4 ppg, Andre Hollins missed the last outing and figures to be out this time around as well with an ankle injury, putting even more pressure on the rest of the Minnesota roster. Despite the scoring burst by Smith at Nebraska, he is scoring only 10.8 ppg, which trails both Austin Hollins and Mathieu who are responsible for 11.7 and 11.6 ppg, respectively.
After such a monumental win over Wisconsin, the Wildcats might be in for a letdown. Surely the defense will show up for Northwestern, but playing in The Barn is never easy for any visitor.
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