In today’s 75-65 win for Northwestern, one player took the forefront, and that was senior point guard Juice Thompson. A week after dropping 18 on the Gophers, Juice dropped a career high, and Big Ten tournament all time best, 35 points all over Minnesota today in a game that had some paralells to the second game the teams played in Evanston a week ago. Like that game, this one was close for most of the first half. Also like the second game, today’s game featured Northwestern going bonkers in the second half thanks to Thompson. The NU senior drained 11 of 22 shots, including 5 of 12 from beyond the arc. The rest of the Wildcats shot 13 for 35 and 4 of 19 from three. So to put it mildly…no, the Cats wouldn’t have won this game without Thompson.
The game ends a disappointing finish to the season for Minnesota, who closed out their season with losses in ten of eleven games. The team only loses a pair of players: sharpshooting guard Blake Hoffbarger, and the injured catalyst of the team, Al Nolen. Hoffarber put up 13 in the loss, but only made one shot from inside the arc (1/8). Trevor Mbakwe continued to dominate Northwestern and their lack of size on the inside, going for 19 and 11.
Northwestern’s season will continue tomorrow at noon eastern against Ohio State, the top ranked team in the tournament. The teams only played once, at the beginning of February in Evanston. Northwestern played that game without star forward John Shurna, and came up a point short of upsetting the top ranked Buckeyes. With a healthy Shurna, Northwestern has a good chance at pulling off the upset if they can play their type of game: eating a lot of clock and not getting into a physical war on the inside. Northwestern doesn’t have the size to compete with OSU inside.
I mention the Wildcats having Shurna in tomorrow’s game as if he was a factor today…he wasn’t. Shurna only hit one bucket on the game, but did have seven rebounds. Alex Marcotullio added 13 and 6 off the bench, and sophomore Drew Crawford awakened after a slow first half to finish with 15 and 6.