Northwestern’s 13-game win streak at home was on the line Thursday, as the Wildcats welcomed the Minnesota Golden Gophers to Welsh-Ryan Arena. Behind 44% shooting from the field and 17 points from freshmen Amir Coffey the younger brother of Wildcats women’s star Nia Coffey, the Gophers played spoiler, defeating NU 70-66.
Both teams opened up the game exchanging buckets and at one point were tied 16-16. Northwestern went 4-of-4 from deep early. Despite both teams shooting over 50% from the field, Northwestern went into the locker-room leading Minnesota 39-35.
Then in the second half, things began to change.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins. “The second half became a grind-out game.”
Indeed it was, as Northwestern struggled shooting from long range going 1-of-15 in the second half and finished 6-of-26 for the game. A pivotal point came midway through the second half when the Wildcats were leading 47-40 after a Scottie Lindsey dunk and Minnesota coach Richard Pitino called a timeout.
“I told them the same thing I told them at Purdue when we were trailing by seven,” Pitino said. “Calm down and let’s go on a run.”
The message seemed to spark the Gophers as they came out of the timeout with back-to-back made three pointers that led to a 10-0 run, and ultimately gave them the lead.
Minnesota has great length down low and it forced Northwestern to adjust, limiting the Wildcats offense to jump shots.
In the words of sophomore center Derek Pardon, who made his conference debut after being sidelined for five weeks, “We just didn’t make open shots. Point, blank, period.”
Pardon finished the game with 9 points and 8 boards. The Wildcats concluded the game shooting 38% from deep, led by junior guard Bryant McIntosh with a game-high twenty-one points.
Minnesota won the rebounding battle with a 41-35 advantage, while also forcing nine NU turnovers.
Reggie Lynch made his presence felt down low, finishing with 12 points after only having two points in the first half. In addition, Nate Mason finished with 12 points, none bigger then the eight consecutive free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
“It is not over, we have 15 games left in this thing. We just have to keep fighting,” Collins said. “We did a lot of great things [tonight], we can’t change our tune. We got to rally and regroup. We lost at home, now we have to find a way to make it up on the road.”
Northwestern will continue conference play as it travels to Nebraska for a matchup on Sunday.