EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Unable to beat a Big Ten team away from home last season, Minnesota now has impressive back-to-back road wins. Amir Coffey scored 17 points, and Nate Mason hit eight free throws in the final 26 seconds to lead the Golden Gophers to a 70-66 victory over Northwestern on Thursday night.
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Unable to beat a Big Ten team away from home last season, Minnesota now has impressive back-to-back road wins.
Amir Coffey scored 17 points, and Nate Mason hit eight free throws in the final 26 seconds to lead the Golden Gophers to a 70-66 victory over Northwestern on Thursday night.
Coffey nailed three 3-pointers. Mason came through at the line near the end to finish with 12 points, and Minnesota (14-2, 2-1) picked up another impressive road win after beating then-No. 15 Purdue in overtime on Sunday.
"It's a different team, I have to say that," coach Richard Pitino said. "I just think the guys that were here last year have grown up. As tough as last year was for them, it was good for them. And I just think the guys that we brought in are really helping us."
The Gophers went 8-23 overall last season and 2-16 in Big Ten play. They didn't even win a conference road game.
"That's one thing Pitino really stresses to us is that every game counts," said Coffey, a freshman. "We're taking every game serious. We're trying to win every game that we play. In the long run, it's gonna matter."
Minnesota scored 10 straight to wipe out a 47-40 deficit in the second half and hung on in the closing minutes to give Northwestern (12-4, 1-2) its second straight loss after winning nine in a row.
Bryant McIntosh scored 21 and had five assists for the Wildcats. The junior became the 34th Northwestern player to hit the 1,000-point mark and tied assistant Pat Baldwin for second on the program's assist list with 452.
Vic Law added 14 points and eight rebounds. But the Wildcats struggled in a big way from 3-point range in the second half, making 1 of 15 to finish 6 of 26 for the game. They also took the loss after tying a program record with 13 straight home wins dating to last season.
"Nobody feels sorry for us," McIntosh said. "I didn't feel sorry for us. We didn't make enough plays down the stretch. We had plenty of 50-50 balls that we didn't get. We had plenty of open shots that we just didn't make."
The Gophers were leading 62-57 after Coffey scored on a put-back with 1:27 remaining. But Northwestern did not go quietly.
Scottie Lindsey hit two free throws to make it a three-point game with 28 seconds left. Mason, who had 31 points and 11 assists against Purdue, answered with a pair. But McIntosh scored on a layup to pull Northwestern back within three with 19 seconds remaining.
Mason hit two more free throws to make it 66-61. But Northwestern hung in.
McIntosh nailed a 3 to make it a two-point game. Mason hit two free throws with 11.9 seconds remaining and, after a driving McIntosh fed Gavin Skelly for a dunk, he buried two more foul shots with two seconds left.
Minnesota: The Gophers appear poised to break into the Top 25 after narrowly missing out this week.
Northwestern: The Wildcats are staggering a little bit with back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Minnesota.
Coffey was thrilled to get a rare chance to play in front of his sister Nia, a star on the Northwestern women's team.
"It was amazing," he said. "My sister hasn't been able to watch me play in a while. I was excited to play in front of her."
Minnesota: Hosts Ohio State on Sunday.
Northwestern: Visits Nebraska on Sunday
Follow Andrew Seligman on Twitter @aseligmanap