Williams helps Minnesota knock off Northwestern 51-46

Tre Williams scored 14 points and Jamal Mashburn Jr. 11 and Minnesota snapped a seven-game skid with a 51-46 win over Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten Conference tournament on Wednesday.

The Golden Gophers advance to take on fifth-seeded and No. 9 ranked Ohio State on Thursday.

Minnesota pulled out the win despite shooting a paltry 37% (18 for 49) while making just 10 of 24 (42%) from the foul line.

Down the stretch, however, the Wildcats didn’t help their cause when with a 46-39 lead with 4:20 to go they never scored again. Despite a 3-for-10 shooting effort, Minnesota’s Marcus Carr drained back-to-back fadeaway jumpers and 2 of 3 foul shots in a 90-second span and the Golden Gophers led 49-46 with 72 seconds left.

Carr finished with 10 points, Eric Curry grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds and Brandon Johnson snared 10 boards for Minnesota.

Following a slow start, Northwestern gradually whittled its way back and took its first lead of the game at 40-38 on Miller Kopp’s jumper with 7:02 left. Kopp led Northwestern with nine points.

Both Gach made a 3-pointer and a jump shot and Mashburn Jr. made a layup and a jumper and Minnesota (14-14) built a 16-2 advantage.

Despite missing 23 of 31-shot attempts in the half, Northwestern (9-15) outscored Minnesota 11-6 in the last 4:16 of the half to reduce its deficit to 27-20 at halftime.

Minnesota entered the conference tournament as the 13th seed and the Wildcats were No. 12. Northwestern finished the conference season at 6-13 and the Golden Gophers 6-14. Northwestern beat Minnesota 67-59 at Minneapolis in the lone regular season game they played against each other.

The Golden Gophers moved their record to 6-2 against Northwestern in conference tournament play.