MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Even when the opponent is on a nine-game losing streak, Minnesota can't seem to put the game away after jumping to a big lead.
The Golden Gophers built leads of 15 points in the first half and 17 points in the second against Northwestern on Saturday, but still had to hang on for a 69-60 Big Ten victory over the struggling Wildcats.
''There's some concern there, but not alarm,'' said Minnesota coach Dan Monson. ''We play good for three or four minutes and then make mistakes and allow people to creep back in.''
Backup guard Mitch Ohnstad scored a season-high 18 points and J.B. Bickerstaff added 12 as Minnesota snapped its four-game losing streak and stretched the Wildcats' string of consecutive losses to 10.
But the game wasn't easy for Minnesota (11-7, 3-5 Big Ten), even though it never trailed in the game
''Obviously when you get a Big Ten win, especially after a four-game losing streak, it's a good thing,'' said Monson. ''It's no secret that was two basketball teams that are struggling. That wasn't the level we wanted to play, but I was pleased with the result.''
The Gophers built a 17-point lead at 43-26 with a 13-3 run to start the second half.
Center Joel Przybilla, who had just two points in the first half, had six points during the run. He finished with 11 points.
Sophomore Steve Lepore hit five 3-point shots -- all in the second half -- and had 17 points to lead Northwestern (4-15, 0-7 Big Ten), which fought back to within five points at 57-52 with 3:43 to play.
''We did get back in the game, we had our opportunities,'' said Northwestern coach Kevin O'Neill. ''I thought we dug ourselves a hole in the first half turning the ball over. We were in a situation where we didn't get to the free throw line as much as we should and they got there every time.''
Minnesota made 26 of 42 foul shots, while Northwestern made only 16 attempts.
Ohnstad echoed Monson's concern about letting opponents get back into games despite large deficits.
''It's a concern, but that's the nature of the Big Ten,'' said Ohnstad, who made five of seven shots from the field and seven of eight free throws. ''Every game is going to be a tough game in the Big Ten, but if we're going to be the kind of team we want to be, we've got to put teams away earlier.''
David Newman had 12 points for Northwestern, including a pair of 3-pointers in the final two minutes, as the Wildcats tried to get back in the game.
Thirteen of Minnesota's last 15 points came on free throws.
''When the game was on the line and they made a little run, we held our poise,'' said Monson, whose team is last in the conference in free throw shooting. ''I was pleased with our poise at the end of the game.''
The last victory for the Wildcats, who start four freshmen, came on Dec. 18, 78-54 against Western Carolina.
The 7-foot-1-inch Przybilla, who had double-doubles in six of his first seven Big Ten games, played just six minutes in the first half due to early foul trouble.
He was spelled mainly by junior Kyle Sanden, who made his first appearance of the season after missing the first 17 games due to academic problems. Sanden, a 6-11 junior, didn't score, but grabbed three rebounds in nine minutes of play.
Northwestern, which had just 12 points in the first half against Michigan State, managed only four baskets in the last 12 minutes of the first half against Minnesota.
The Gophers used a 15-2 run early in the game to take a 21-8 lead, although Northwestern battled back to within seven at halftime.
Ohnstad scored six points off the bench during the run and Bickerstaff contributed four for Minnesota, which is 10-1 in Williams Arena this season.
Northwestern (4-15, 0-7)
Lepore 6-13 0-0 17, Burke 3-6 0-0 6, Deren 0-0 0-0 0, Blake 0-2 0-0 0, Johnson 2-6 0-1 5, Newman 3-6 4-4 12, Drayton 1-2 2-5 4, Hardy 3-9 4-6 10, Robinson 1-2 0-0 2, Jennings 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 21-50 10-16 60.
Minnesota (11-7, 3-5)
Bickerstaff 3-6 6-11 12, Rychart 2-6 3-7 7, Przybilla 5-9 1-3 11, Burleson 2-6 2-2 8, Simmons 1-6 5-8 7, Sinville 1-5 2-3 4, Ohnstad 5-7 7-8 18, Wildenborg 1-1 0-0 2, Schilling 0-3 0-0 0, Sanden 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-49 26-42 69.
Halftime--Minnesota 30, Northwestern 23. 3-Point goals--Northwestern 8-21 (Lepore 5-10, Burke 0-1, Blake 0-1, Johnson 1-3, Newman 2-4, Drayton 0-1, Hardy 0-1), Minnesota 3-7 (Burleson 2-5, Simmons 0-1, Ohnstad 1-1). Fouled out--Johnson, Jennings. Rebounds--Northwestern 32 (Hardy 8), Minnesota 42 (Bickerstaff, Rychart 8). Assists--Northwestern 10 (Newman 6), Minnesota 12 (Simmons 4). Total fouls--Northwestern 30, Minnesota 20. A--13,842.
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