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Northwestern awaits big game vs. Michigan

JerShCobb’s return from injuries figures give Wildcats boost down stretch. | Jim Prisching~AP

JerShon Cobb’s return from injuries figures to give the Wildcats a boost down the stretch. | Jim Prisching~AP

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Michigan at Northwestern

The facts: 7, BTN, 670-AM.

Updated: March 22, 2012 8:15AM

Northwestern coach Bill Carmody knew that the Wildcats’ game Saturday against Minnesota was a must-win for their NCAA tournament hopes.

The Wildcats delivered with a 64-53 victory at Welsh-Ryan Arena, but that doesn’t mean they’re a lock for the tournament. The Wildcats (16-10, 6-8 Big Ten) host No. 11 Michigan on Tuesday in another must-win game.

After the victory over the Golden Gophers, there was talk that the Michigan game will be one of the biggest in the program’s history and that it could make or break the Wildcats’ tournament hopes.

Carmody doesn’t buy it.

“Oh, please,” Carmody said. “It’s an important game because you have four left, and if you win a few, you’re in the discussion. But if you lose [against Michigan], you’re not out of it. You just keep going. In two more weeks, we’ll know what we are and where we are.”

Some prognosticators believe the Wildcats have at least a 50-50 chance of making the tournament. Carmody has said that if they go .500 in the Big Ten, they should be a lock to make it for the first time.

The Wildcats are tied with Iowa for seventh in the Big Ten. After beating the Gophers, the Wildcats had sole possession of seventh. That lasted until Iowa upset Indiana 78-66 on Sunday.

The Wolverines (20-7, 10-4) are coming off a 56-51 victory over No. 8 Ohio State on Saturday. They beat Northwestern 66-64 in overtime on Jan. 11 in Ann Arbor.

But the Wildcats won’t rest on their laurels after beating Minnesota, especially with a trip to Penn State on Saturday and a visit from the Buckeyes on Feb. 29.

“We’re not done yet, and we have to keep taking care of business,” point guard Dave Sobolewski said.

What will help the Wildcats down the stretch is JerShon Cobb’s return. Cobb played 24 minutes against the Gophers, the most since he played 27 minutes at Ohio State on Dec. 28. Cobb missed 12 games with assorted hip, leg and back pain.

“He did help us offensively, we got a couple breakouts from his steals and his shots looked perfect and he didn’t pull the string on them or was short,” Carmody said. “I think your defense helps your offense, and he certainly helped our team. When you have another guy there, you can have some accountability there as a coach.”

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