Daniel Oturu, Minnesota’s 6-foot-10 sophomore center, led all scorers with 24 points to spark the 12th-seeded Gophers to a 74-57 win over the 13th-seeded Wildcats on Wednesday night in the Big Ten tournament at Indianapolis.
Minnesota (15-16) advanced to face fifth-seeded Iowa on Thursday afternoon in the tournament quarterfinals. Northwestern finished 8-23 overall.
Midway through Wednesday’s first game, the Big Ten announced that beginning Thursday, attendance at the remainder of the men’s basketball tournament would be limited to players, coaches, event staff, essential team and conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media and immediate family members of the participating teams.
Some boos greeted the in-arena announcement, even with refunds offered to those holding tickets for Wednesday’s session as well.
Oturu, a second-team all-conference selection, added eight rebounds while making 10 of 12 attempts from the foul line.
He averaged 21.7 points and 12 rebounds in a three-game sweep of the Wildcats, which included a 77-68 win at home on Jan. 5 and an 83-57 laugher on Feb. 23 at Evanston, Ill.
Junior guard Payton Willis hit back-to-back 3-pointers to key a 16-2 run for the Gophers midway through the second half. Northwestern was last in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage defense during the regular season, while Minnesota was sixth-best in shooting from beyond the arc.
The Gophers made nine 3-pointers after the break on Wednesday and shot a combined 34 of 83 (.410) from 3-point range in the three wins over Northwestern.
Northwestern trailed by as many as eight points early before rallying for a 31-29 lead after a cold-shooting first half for both teams.
Freshman forward Pete Nance led the Wildcats with 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, in the first half while Oturu had 15 points for the Gophers before the break.
Graduate guard Pat Spencer led both teams with seven first-half rebounds for the Wildcats.
—Field Level Media