Evanston,Il - One game removed from a remarkable comeback victory, the last thing surging Minnesota needs is a letdown.
The 18th-ranked Golden Gophers look for their fifth straight victory on Sunday when they travel to face struggling Northwestern in a Big Ten matchup.
Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Northwestern –1 point spread favorites for Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota. Current College Basketball Public Betting Information shows that 68% of more than 258 bets for this game have been placed on the Northwestern -1.
If Minnesota (16-1, 4-1) needed to further justify its strong start, it did so with a 78-74 overtime victory at Wisconsin on Thursday. The Gophers rallied from 14 down in the second half for their first recognized victory at Wisconsin since 1992.
They won there in 1994, but that was tainted by the academic scandal under former coach Clem Haskins.
While the Gophers handed the Badgers just their ninth loss at the Kohl Center in eight seasons under coach Bo Ryan, it also kept Minnesota alone in second place behind 5-0 Michigan State.
"I think this is the biggest win (of the season),'' said guard Lawrence Westbrook, who made a game-tying 3-pointer with 2 seconds left in regulation and finished with a career-high 29 points.
At 13.8 points per game, Westbrook is the only Gopher averaging double figures this season. The 6-foot junior, though, is averaging 15.1 points on 50.7 percent shooting in his last seven games. Against Wisconsin, he was 10-for-16 from the field and 7-for-7 from the free-throw line.
"(Westbrook) was remarkable," said Minnesota coach Tubby Smith, whose team is perfect in league play since losing 70-58 to the then-10th-ranked Spartans on New Year's Eve. "But he has that ability ... He is a tough guy and wants the ball in his hands. Players know when they are in that zone."
Though their latest victory won't soon be forgotten, the Gophers must move on and be aware of Northwestern (8-6, 0-4), which has lost four in a row to Minnesota, including three times last season.
Westbrook had a game-high 17 points in the Gophers' 55-52 comeback victory over the Wildcats during last season's Big Ten tournament. Northwestern led by 16 in the first half of that contest, and enters this one having blown a big lead in their last outing.
The Wildcats couldn't hold a 13-point lead and faltered down the stretch in a 63-61 home loss to Purdue on Thursday, leaving them and Indiana as the only winless teams in conference play.
"It stings,'' Northwestern senior guard Craig Moore said.
Minnesota's two regular-season victories over the Wildcats in 2008 weren't nearly as close, including a 92-72 win on Feb. 6 in Evanston, Ill.
Northwestern, however, has led at halftime in both league home games. It held a one-point advantage at the break but fell 77-66 to Michigan State on Jan. 3 and led 34-21 over the Boilermakers after 20 minutes.
Despite making six of its first eight 3-point attempts against Purdue, Northwestern made two the rest of the way and finished shooting 35.7 percent from the field. Moore and junior Kevin Coble each had 16 points for the Wildcats, who are shooting 32.3 percent in their last three contests.
The 6-foot-8 Coble is averaging 16.0 points while shooting 52.5 percent in five games versus Minnesota.
Posted: 1/18/09 1:06AM ET