Six games were a long time to be away from home – by far the longest stretch Gophers played away…
Six games were a long time to be away from home – by far the longest stretch Gophers played away from Williams Arena in Richard Pitino’s six seasons as a coach.
Being able to build an energetic crowd and a career-high 32 points from Amir Coffey was enough to help Gophers get back from a 13-point defeat and get their first Big Ten-men’s basketball victory this season by knocking No. 24 Nebraska 85-78 on Wednesday night at the Children.
Gophers (7-2, 1-1 Big Ten), who lost 79-59 at No. 16 Ohio State on Sunday evening to open league play, bounced back with inspired play for senior guard Dupree McBrayer, who lost his mother to a the battle with cancer Monday.
“The team is going through a tough time with the loss of Dupree’s mom,” Coffey said. “It was completely behind us the whole game. We just wanted to be there for him tonight and he told us:” Let’s get this W. “”
Cornhuskers (7-2, 1
-1), who held 38 percent shot in the second half, scored 19 points at 13 Minnesota tournaments to keep control until the moment swung heavily in the home team’s favor. Minnesota shot 57 percent in the second half and finished the game on a 29-11 round in the last 10 minutes, 20 seconds.
Coffey tried to act alone with a team playing with heavy hearts, because the players had stains with initials of Tayra McFarlane, McBrayer’s mother. 6-8 junior nailed a three-pointer for his 30th point that covered a 9-0 second half and gave Minnesota a 77-73 lead by 2:25 left.
A couple of minutes earlier, McBrayer hit a tree on Coffey’s help that ignited the audience, bringing Nebraska the lead to 71-68. New York indian and co-captain fouled out at 1:17 to play, with the audience giving him supportive applause when he went to the bench.
After the game, McBrayer’s eyes tore up as he was cared for by his teammates – and also Nebraska coach Tim Miles. Pitino was proud of how McBrayer played through the pain of his tragic loss, compiling five points and four assisting in 34 minutes.
“I just wanted so much for the ball to come in for him,” said a choked-up Pitino. “Just then he could feel good about himself just a minute.”
Coffey shot 8-in-16 from the field and 14-in-17 from the foul line, to go with six assistances and six rebounds. Jordan Murphy finished 18 points and 13 rebounds, giving him a 52-year career double double.
In the first half, Coffey kicked a 13-2 race to give Minnesota a 36-32 lead with just under five minutes, but the momentum evaporated when Coffey left the match after taking his third foul.
Cornhuskers, who led 44-39 in half-time, took a 55-42 lead early in the second half at free throw from Glynn Watson Jr. after McBrayer took up his third foul.
After Pitino shouted his team’s lack of physical toughness against Ohio State, Gophers answered the challenge one night when they played for more than just a Big Ten victory.
“We did not hang our heads and knew we were down 13,” Murphy said. “We had to continue fighting, continue to recover, continue scratching and continue defending. It was one of the biggest things.”