Gophers Keeping Hoops Tournament Hopes Alive
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Amir Coffey gave Minnesota just the jolt it needed.
Coffey tied a career high with 32 points and set one with 12 rebounds to lead Minnesota to a 62-50 victory over Northwestern on Thursday night.
The Golden Gophers (18-11, 8-10 Big Ten) had dropped six of seven to jeopardize their NCAA Tournament hopes. But with Coffey leading the way, Minnesota got the win it needed and snapped a six-game road losing streak in the process.
"These last couple games are really important for Big Ten Tournament seeding and obviously a tournament bid," Coffey said. "We're trying to pick up as many as we can."
Minnesota has two tough games left — at home against No. 14 Purdue and at No. 17 Maryland — before the conference tournament begins.
Maybe this will help point the Gophers back toward the NCAA for the second time in three years.
Coffey played all 40 minutes while matching a high for points he set against Nebraska in December and easily surpassing his previous best of seven rebounds. The 6-foot-8 junior made 12 of 19 shots overall — 3 of 6 3-pointers. And it wasn't too hard to figure out why coach Richard Pitino kept him in the entire way.
"Why do you think? Thirty-two points. Twelve rebounds," Pitino said. "I'm not that bad of a coach. You've got to let him roll. He wasn't tired. He's reliable. He's durable. He's a talented, talented player."
Coffey scored 15 in the first half as Minnesota grabbed a 32-20 halftime lead. But he was about the only one clicking for either team in the early going. Coffey had seven points during a 10-0 run, nailing a 3 from up top before Gabe Kalscheur buried one from the corner to make it 28-14 with 4:13 left in the half.
Last-place Northwestern (12-16, 3-14) has lost nine straight and is on its worst skid since dropping 10 in a row during the 2014-15 season.
Minnesota: Hosts Purdue on Tuesday.