There are hints of life in the Gophers yet.
With the door to their once-promising season threatening to slam shut, the Gophers stuck their foot in the threshold Thursday night and kept the hope for a turnaround alive.
In front of an announced crowd of 14,625 at Williams Arena on Valentine's Day, they shook off a lethargic start to overcome No. 20 Wisconsin 58-53 -- shaking off a two-game losing streak in a gritty and much-needed overtime victory.
"The sky was falling around here," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "So sometimes, when the sky is falling and you're laying under the ceiling, you think it's going to cave in on you. So they [Wisconsin] wanted it, but we had to have it."
Climaxing an improbable finish to regulation, sophomore guard Joe Coleman (six points, seven rebounds) sank two free throws to send the game to overtime. Sophomore guard Andre Hollins (21 points, five rebounds, three assists, no turnovers) scored seven points in the extra session and the Gophers (18-7, 6-6 Big Ten) kept the Badgers (17-8, 8-4) from sweeping the season series.
But the drama didn't start there.
Wisconsin led by six at 49-43 with 5:08 left in regulation, but the Gophers pulled within 49-47 on a Rodney Williams dunk with 1:53 remaining. The Badgers flubbed their next two possessions, giving the Gophers a chance to respond, but Austin Hollins was called for a charge with 22.6 seconds left, handing the ball back to Wisconsin.
Implausibly, senior forward Mike Bruesewitz -- who drew the charge on Hollins -- then moved his feet while inbounding the ball, which gave the Gophers another possession and ultimately allowed Coleman to score the equalizers.
"I messed it up," Bruesewitz said. "I've been in that position 100 times, if not more. I've done it enough in practice when you can't move. I just took one too many steps."
Rodney Williams was guarding St. Paul native Bruesewitz when Wisconsin got possession, and used the opportunity to needle his old friend.
"We just went back and forth about how it wasn't a charge [on Hollins] or it was," Williams said. "The idea was definitely to get into his head and I guess it worked."
Given another chance to tie the score, the play Smith designed was quickly broken up, but Coleman ad-libbed with a drive into the lane and got fouled.
"I saw the lane open and it was better than a turnover," Coleman said, "so I just made the drive and when it came down to those clutch free throws, I knew I had it. I had put in all the work for it, so I've got to make them."
Bruesewitz wasn't the only Badger helping make the Gophers' comeback possible. Wisconsin, which won its previous two games in overtime, went 11 minutes without a basket before Jared Berggren's rebound hoop with 10 seconds remaining in overtime. Senior Ryan Evans, a 40.3 percent free-throw shooter this season, also missed five consecutive free throws -- including three in the final 5:08 of regulation, when making any one of them could have made the difference.
But the Gophers were able to execute in the final minutes, an area where they have struggled lately. But most of it was the players simply relaxing and getting their confidence back, Andre Hollins said.
"Coach said just play ball, we're going to play loose, we're going to come out and play basketball," he said. "This time, we toughed it out mentally."