Northwestern pulls 55-53 upset

T.J. Parker’s jump shot with 0.9 seconds left sent the Gophers to a suprise defeat.

Bob Wothe

For once, Vincent Grier threw the ball down with a little too much authority Wednesday night.

With just more than four minutes to play, Grier collected a loose ball on the baseline, took one step and threw down a thunderous dunk with two hands to give Minnesota’s men’s basketball team a 10-point lead over Northwestern – equaling its largest of the night.

Unfortunately for Grier and the rest of the Gophers, he was hit with a technical foul for slapping the backboard.

Then, the Gophers got slapped by the Wildcats.

Northwestern (11-11, 4-6 Big Ten) quickly erased the 10-point deficit, and T.J. Parker hit the winning jump shot with less than a second on the clock, handing Minnesota (16-7, 6-4) its first Wednesday loss of the season by a score of 55-53 in front of a crowd of 11,209 at Williams Arena.

“Northwestern is a very opportunistic team, and we gave them an opportunity tonight,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. “We played very hard, but not very well.”

Grier’s dunk punctuated his second-straight 32-point game, but it was his last basket of the night and the last field goal of the game for the Gophers.

Down the stretch, Minnesota had opportunities to ice the game at the free-throw line but could not.

Dan Coleman hit just 2-of-4 free throws and Aaron Robinson hit only 1-of-2 late, allowing the Wildcats a chance to steal the game.

“We made key errors at the end of the game that we can’t make,” Grier said. “Every loss hurts, but we shouldn’t have lost that one.”

Although the Gophers dominated most of the game – as evidenced by their 39-18 edge in rebounding and lead throughout – the team played sloppily for the second-straight Wednesday.

A week after Minnesota turned the ball over 25 times at Michigan, Northwestern forced 23 Gophers turnovers and collected 17 steals.

The Wildcats’ 15-3 closing run was rather reminiscent of their 11-2 opening run, as they were able to force the Gophers into a half-court game.

The first time around, Minnesota responded well, holding Northwestern to just four points in the half’s last 13 minutes to take a 23-17 lead into halftime.

The second time, though, there simply wasn’t enough time.

“This was a real eye-opener for us and shows that our work isn’t done,” said Brent Lawson, who missed a wide-open three-point attempt with the score tied and 15 seconds left. “Lots of people talked about the NCAA Tournament, but we try to stay away from that. You could see why tonight.”