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Northwestern 77, Minnesota 74

It's more than 24 hours after the game, but I figure better late than never to post a recap. The 'Cats struggled on offense on both ends of the court for much of the afternoon, but finally got thing together in the final 8 minutes and rallied from a 13 point deficit.

I have to say I was skeptical of Bill Carmody playing mostly 1-3-1 given how well Minnesota shot the ball from the outside in the first half, but he stuck with it and it finally paid dividends. NU's defensive effort was much improved from Wednesday's game vs Iowa, as they came up with 10 steals and 6 blocked shots, and several times got easy baskets off their defense, most notably by Luka Mirkovic, who rumbled down the court for a lay-up after a steal. Mirkovic also hit one of the biggest shots of the game; a three to give the 'Cats the lead with under 3 minutes left. It was nice to see Carmody stick with Mirkovic even though Luka didn't score at all in the first 30 minutes; as he finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 4 steals. He also hit all 4 of his free throws in overtime, as NU shot an impressive 16 for 19 from the line for the game.

The offense struggled for a while, but I give a lot of credit to Minnesota for playing well defensively. The Gophers are such a good shot-blocking team that you have to do most of your damage offensively either from the perimeter or in transition off turnovers, and that was how NU eventually got back in the game. John Shurna led the way with 22 points on 6 of 13 3-point shooting, and Drew Crawford added 18 points and 9 rebounds. Michael Thompson had to sit for a while in the first half with foul trouble, and struggled with his shooting for much of the game, but he hit a big 3 early in overtime to tie the score and finished with 7 assists. I thought Carmody did a nice job with the rotations, as he brought Thompson back in the first half when it was clear Mike Capocci couldn't get it done, and he stuck with Crawford in the second half even though the freshman had 4 fouls. If I have one nitpick with Carmody, it was him sticking with the 1-3-1 zone in situations where Minnesota needed a 3 in the final minute of both regulation and overtime. The 1-3-1 worked well down the stretch, but when the opponent needs a three, I think he would have been much better off playing a perimeter oriented man-to-man defense instead, as the 1-3-1 is susceptible to threes. Other than that, I liked what Carmody did.

While this win certainly doesn't eliminate the damage caused by the Iowa loss, it was a nice win at home over a desperate Minnesota team. Next up for NU: winless in the Big Ten Penn State at home on Wednesday night.