Northwestern Eliminates Minnesota; Set to Face #1 Ohio State

Michael juice Thompson

As he has so many times this season, Northwestern Wildcats
senior point guard Michael "Juice" Thompson carried his team on his
back, leading his team to a victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a Big Ten
Tournament game they absolutely had to have in order to preserve any
chance of a NCAA Tournament berth; and probably really needed to
salvage a NIT berth.

Thompson set a Big Ten Tournament record with 35 points, eclipsing his previous career high of 31 set against Tennessee State in 2009. Thompson shot 11-22 from the field, 5-12 from behind the arc.

Juice lived up to his nickname today, taking over the game whenever he wanted. It was reminiscent of the 1992 film "Juice," starring Tupac Shakur and Omar Epps. The film's poster reads "Power. Respect. Juice. How far will you go to get it?"

Juice was just 4-13 from the field at half, but he turned it on in the second twenty minutes, and the Cats pulled away in the last ten minutes, turning a close game into a blowout.

"It doesn't mean anything, I'm just excited that we got a win and we're able to stay alive and play tomorrow," Thompson said of the Big Ten tourney single game scoring record.

Sophomore guard/forward Drew Crawford had 15, but once again struggled with his shot going 4-11 from the field, 1-5 from behind the arc.

Trevor Mbakwe, the league's leading rebounder, led the Gophers with 19 points and 11 rebounds, once again securing a double double.

The 'Cats have a quick turnaround for facing the nation's #1 team in Ohio State at noon Eastern.

Sophomore guard Alex Marcotullio talked about the rematch with OSU:

"I think this time around we're going to go about our business the same
way and just control the game and try to take them out of what they do
best. You know, as a team we have to come together and win three more
games to get through this tournament. I think today was a great step,
and we've just got to continue on."

NU Coach Bill Carmody knows he has work cut out for him. I asked him what he might have learned from taking them down to the wire last time, losing just 58-57 to a team that was undefeated at the time.

"Give everything away? What do you want from me? No, I thought we
controlled the tempo of the game pretty much in that game, and we made
some very, very tough shots, you know, in the last, say, seven seconds
of the clock. So I suspect that they'll try to up the tempo a little bit
and try to take us out of our routines and stuff," Carmody said.

Last time out the Wildcats limited possessions and ran the shot clock down on almost every offensive set. The mode of attack brought them to within a point of a signature victory. We'll see tomorrow if they utilize a similar style.

And if they do, what adjustments Ohio State Coach Thad Matta makes.

Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports, a Midwest webzine. He's also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Tribune's blog network, Walter Football, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports

He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports and

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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