Before the season started, Chris Collins already dubbed Northwestern freshman Aaron Falzon as one of the best shooters in the Big Ten.
Coming off back-to-back miserable shooting performances in losses to Maryland and Ohio State, the Wildcats needed someone to shoot the lights out Saturday.
Enter the freshman. Falzon was 7-for-10 from the field, 6-for-9 from 3-point range, scoring a game-high 20 points to help Northwestern blow out Minnesota, 77-52, in the Twin Cities.
The Cats as a whole shot brilliantly following those two straight ice-cold outings. Northwestern shot 56 percent from the field, including a stunning 65.2-percent clip in the second half as it ran away from Minnesota.
Falzon hit a pair of early 3s, but the Gophers held a one-point lead about six minutes in. From there, though, the Cats went on a 10-0 run, helped by two more Falzon triples, and they led by six at the half.
The Cats opened the second half on another burst, getting back-to-back dunks by Joey van Zegeren and eight straight points, including two more 3s. The first of those stretched the Northwestern lead out to 15. And the Cats continued to shoot hot from there, the lead hitting 22 on a Tre Demps triple closing in on eight minutes remaining. Bryant McIntosh's 3-pointer with two and a half minutes to go made it a 25-point game, and it got as big as 27 multiple times in the final minutes.
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Northwestern went 11-for-25 from 3-point range on the day. Minnesota shot just 39.1 percent from the field and went 5-for-18 from 3-point range. The Cats also held a big rebounding edge, dominating the boards, 33-17.
Falzon matched a season and career high with his 20 points, setting a new season and career high with the six made 3-pointers. Demps scored 13 points, getting into double digits for just the second time in his last five games. McIntosh set a new career high with 11 assists, and van Zegeren had his highest-scoring game since coming to Northwestern with 11 points. Sanjay Lumpkin had 10 rebounds.
It was an important win for the Cats, who could have let the past two losses dictate things for some time. In the first two seasons under Collins, lengthy losing streaks in conference play have crippled seasons. Sure, Minnesota isn't a very good team, one of the Big Ten's bottom feeders this season, but it was important to get back to winning nonetheless.
The victory sent the Cats to 2-2 in Big Ten play and 14-3 on the season. Northwestern next plays host to Wisconsin on Tuesday.
The loss was the fifth straight for the Gophers, who fell to 6-10 on the campaign and 0-4 to start conference play. Minnesota travels to Nebraska on Tuesday.