Blake Hoffarber connected on five three-pointers and Minnesota ended a three-game losing streak by holding off Northwestern 65-61 on Tuesday at Williams Arena.
Hoffarber finished with 20 points and Minnesota overcame squandering a 13-point second half lead in improving to 13-7 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten. Northwestern dropped to 14-6 overall and 3-5 in the conference. Hoffarber, who entered the game ranked second nationally in three-point field goal percentage at 48.6 percent, finished 6-for-10 from the field and 5-for-8 from three-point range. He also totaled seven rebounds and four assists.
Lawrence Westbrook added 18 points for the Gophers, who held a commanding 35-26 advantage in rebounds and blocked 11 Northwestern shots. Minnesota shot 57.9 percent (11-for-19) in the second half and overcame nine second half turnovers.
Hoffarber drained back-to-back three-pointers with just over four minutes left to give the Gophers a five-point lead and then sank another huge three with 2:31 left to put Minnesota back up 59-54. He also grabbed an offensive rebound and made two key free throws with nine seconds left.
Northwestern came out hot from long range by hitting four of its first five three-point attempts to build an 18-12 advantage. However, Minnesota took control with eight straight points after trailing 21-16 with 8:03 left in the first half.
Paul Carter started the run with a three-pointer and then Damian Johnson followed with a dunk off a pass from Westbrook to tie the game at 21-21. Johnson stole the inbounds pass and found Westbrook wide open in the corner for a three-pointer that gave the Gophers their first lead at 24-21 with 5:42 left in the first half.
Northwestern followed with an easy dunk from John Shurna, but Minnesota tacked on the game's next seven points to construct an eight-point lead at 31-23 with three minutes left in the half. A three-point play by Hoffarber was followed by a Ralph Sampson III dunk and a Paul Carter layup. The Gophers carried the cushion into halftime and led 33-25 at intermission as the Wildcats hit just one of their last eight three-point field goals of the half. Minnesota also held Northwestern without an offensive rebound or a free throw attempt in the first half.
Damian Johnson opened the second half with a basket and Devoe Joseph followed with a three-pointer from the corner as the Gophers scored the first five points after halftime to gain their biggest lead of the game at 13 points at 38-25.
John Surna shot the Wildcats back into the game, hitting three three-pointers and a pair of free throws to start a 13-2 run and bring Northwestern within 40-38 with 12 minutes remaining. Northwestern held Minnesota without a point for four minutes, 49 seconds and forced turnovers on four straight Gophers' possessions during the spurt. Westbrook finally ended the drought with a leaning jumper to make it 42-38 with 11:26 left.
Michael Thompson hit a three-pointer with 5:37 left to tie the game at 48-48 and, following a steal by Jeremy Nash, Shurna hit one of two free throws with 5:08 left to give Northwestern its first lead of the second half at 49-48. However, Hoffarber drained three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to put the Gophers back ahead at 54-49 with 4:17 remaining. Westbrook finished off a seven-point Gophers' run with a layup before Nash answered with a three-pointer and a layup to bring Northwestern back to within 56-54 with 3:12 to play.
Hoffarber hit another three-pointer as the shot clock expired with 2:31 left to put Minnesota up 59-54. The Gophers led 61-58 with under a minute to play when Joseph missed an open three-pointer, giving Northwestern a chance to tie. However, Minnesota played solid defense on the ensuing possession and Shurna missed an elbow jumper with the shot clock running down and the rebound went to Minnesota with 15.6 seconds left.
Joseph missed the front end of a bonus, but Hoffarber pulled down the offensive rebound with nine seconds left and made both free throws to give the Gophers a five-point lead. Thompson hit a 25-footer with 3.5 seconds left to get Northwestern back within 63-61. Westbrook made two free throws with 3.0 seconds remaining to seal the game.
Shurna led the Wildcats with 19 points and made four three-pointers, while Thompson had 15 points and Drew Crawford contributed 11 points. Luka Mirkovic had over half of the Wildcats' rebounds with a career-high 14 boards.
Minnesota travels to Ohio State on Sunday to face the Buckeyes at noon (central time).