Two slumping Big Ten teams end their regular seasons on Sunday when Northwestern hosts Minnesota in Evansville, Ill.
The Wildcats (13-15, 6-13 Big Ten) have lost their last two games, and the Golden Gophers (13-15, 4-15) have dropped three in a row. They’ll be trying to generate some momentum as they brace for a possible first-round meeting in next week’s conference tournament.
Northwestern is seeded 12th in the field, with Minnesota 13th. Should that standing hold, they would meet in an opening-round game Wednesday night.
Northwestern is coming off an 82-61 loss at No. 24 Iowa on Monday.
Coach Chris Collins said “a flu bug” compromised the team’s health and had been a concern. It showed as the Wildcats fell behind by 20 points in the first half and trailed by as many as 30 late in the game.
Boo Buie, who entered the game averaging 14.7 points, was ineffective in limited action, going scoreless in six minutes.
“I admire that he went out there and tried,” Collins said. “We played like a very tired team. Our energy wasn’t there, and that’s not a good recipe for playing Iowa.”
Minnesota opened its season-ending, two-game road trip with an 84-73 loss at Maryland on Wednesday. With starting post player Eric Curry out with an upper-body injury, the Golden Gophers turned predominantly to their perimeter game and Jamison Battle, who scored a career-high 39 points.
“He did a good job within our offense finding space and guys did a good job of finding him,” Minnesota coach Ben Johnson said. “He made some big-time shots. We needed every single one of those to go without Eric being able to go.”
Battle also established personal bests in field goals made (14) and 3-pointers (seven). He leads the Minnesota with 10 games of at least 20 points.
Johnson said Curry is day-to-day and is “going to do everything he can to play” against Northwestern.
Minnesota topped 77-60 on Feb. 19 in Minneapolis behind 24 points and seven assists from Luke Loewe and Battle’s 21-point, 14-rebound double-double.
The Golden Gophers lead the all-time series 101-69.
–Field Level Media