MINNEAPOLIS -- Another game, another piece of history, another chapter in what is becoming the story of the Big Ten Conference season.

Northwestern's recent reign of terror continued Saturday as a Wildcats team that was floundering only a month ago won, on the road, yet again.

Guard Trey Demps hit a pull-up 3-pointer with a defender in his face with 54 seconds left, sending the Wildcats to a 55-54 victory over Minnesota at Williams Arena.

For the Wildcats (12-11, 5-5 in conference play), it was another milestone. It was their third straight conference road win -- they won at Indiana Jan. 18 and at Wisconsin Wednesday -- something that hasn't happened since the 1959-60 season.

And it put Northwestern into fourth place in arguably the best basketball conference in the nation.

"This is unbelievable," said Demps, who dribbled the ball as the shot clock wound down before hitting his game-winner. "This speaks to the character of our team.

"I think we pride ourselves on defense, and being a grind-it-out team. This might be one of the toughest Northwestern basketball teams anybody has ever seen."

Who's to argue?

Conventional wisdom had it that pressing the Wildcats was the way to beat them. The Gophers did it, nearly from start to finish, but the Wildcats turned the ball over only nine times.

Northwestern also was never forced to play at the pace Minnesota wanted in a game in which neither team led by more than three points in the second half.

"In the heat of the battle, it is hard to think long-term about what these wins mean," Wildcats coach Chris Collins said. "As someone who grew up in Chicago, I know that it is not easy to win in this building.

"I know it's not easy to win in Assembly Hall (at Indiana), and I know it is not easy to win at the Kohl Center (Wisconsin). For this team to be able to do that, it shows a lot about the group of guys I have."

Guard Drew Crawford led Northwestern with 17 points and guard JerShon Cobb had 15. Minnesota was led by center Moe Williams with 14, and guard Austin Hollins added 13.

It was Northwestern that dictated the pace from start to finish. After a first half in which the teams traded significant runs, the second half was a tense battle that stayed close throughout.

"Certainly a disappointing one, to say the least," said Minnesota coach Richard Pitino, whose team (15-7, 4-5) was playing without injured guard Andre Hollins.

"They made big plays when they needed to, and we did not. This is a tough one. We need to find a way to regroup with these guys."

In a game with seven lead changes and nine ties, the final tie came when guard Malik Smith scored in the lane to tie the game, 52-52, with 1:38 left.

Enter Demps.

The Wildcats tried to run the pick and roll, but the Gophers defended it well. Finally, Demps let the game-winner go with one second left on the shot clock.

"That in-and-out, right-to-left crossover to a pull-up three has always been one of my go-tos," Demps said. "I hit one those for a game-winner in high school, too."

Still, Minnesota had a chance.

Guard DeAndrew Mathieu scored for the Gophers, then Demps missed a shot, giving the Gophers a final possession. But Mathieu missed on a drive and Walker missed the put-back attempt right before the buzzer.

"It's very disappointing," Hollins said. "They made some tough shots in the second half. We have to bounce back from this."

NOTES: This was the first time the two first-year coaches in the Big Ten met. ... It was a homecoming for Northwestern f Sanjay Lumpkin. The redshirt freshman is from the Minneapolis suburb of Wayzata. He is the son of former Minnesota football player Sean Lumpkin and the stepson of former Gopher and NBA basketball player Jim Petersen. ... Minnesota G Andre Hollins missed his second start because of a sprained ankle sustained in the first few seconds of the Gophers' victory over Wisconsin on Jan. 22. Hollins is expected to miss one more start before returning Feb. 8 vs. Indiana.