March 12, 2009

Gophers stake claim to NCAA berth

Lawrence Westbrook touched off a game-closing run Thursday that brought Minnesota a 66-53 victory over Northwestern to open the Big Ten Tournament.

The Golden Gophers further advanced their claim to an at-large berth in the NCAA tourney by breaking open a tie game with a 16-3 spurt to finish the contest.

Michigan and Penn State also advanced past the opening round of the tournament, which reaches the quarterfinal stage Friday.

Minnesota improved to 22-9, with Westbrook scoring 14 points and Ralph Sampson III adding nine.

The Gophers will take on top-seeded Michigan State Thursday in the first of the quarterfinal contests.

Michigan overwhelmed Iowa 73-45, allowing the Hawkeyes only 19 points in the first half, and Penn State got 22 points from Jamelle Cornley en route to a 66-51 victory over Indiana.

Wisconsin and Ohio State, the fourth and fifth seeds, had a bye past the opening round and will meet in the second quarterfinal game. Michigan will face Illinois and Penn State will conclude Friday's action by taking on Purdue.