EVANSTON, Ill. – Amir Coffey told Richard Pitino at one point during Thursday’s game not to take him out when his coach wanted him to rest.
The Gophers junior guard had gone through a long slump, so he wanted to enjoy every minute of a game in which he really had everything going his way.
Coffey broke out in a big way by scoring 31 points, playing all 40 minutes in Thursday’s 62-50 victory at Northwestern.
“He wasn’t tired,” Pitino said. “You got to let him roll.”
Coffey entered the game averaging only 11 points on 35.9 percent shooting in his previous seven games. Minnesota’s record during that stretch was 1-6, including four consecutive losses on the road.
“When you’re struggling, the only way to get out of it is keep shooting,” Coffey said. “I just kept on working after practice doing extra reps. I knew it would come back sooner or later. I just kept putting them up and [Thursday] I just found my rhythm.”
Northwestern tried defending Coffey with double-teams, triple-teams and everything it had in the arsenal, but nothing slowed him down.
It was reminiscent of his 32-point performance Dec. 5 vs. Nebraska and a 29-point effort Jan. 12 vs. Rutgers.
The 6-8 former Hopkins star scored more points Thursday in the first half (15) than in his previous two games, when he was held to only 14 points on 6-for-27 shooting in losses to Michigan and Rutgers.
A year ago, Coffey missed 15 games because of a shoulder injury, including an 83-60 loss on the road against Northwestern.
Coffey definitely doesn’t take being able to play again for granted.
“My love for the game kept me going,” Coffey said. “Kept me working towards getting back on the court and playing with my teammates again.”
The last time Coffey played at Welsh-Ryan Arena before Thursday was during his freshman year when his sister, Nia, was in the crowd cheering for him. That was awkward, because she was a star forward for the Wildcats women’s basketball team.
“This year was kind of a flashback to that,” Coffey said. “She wasn’t here this time, but it’s definitely a good story to tell her.”
Murphy’s birthday gift
Gophers senior forward Jordan Murphy turned 22 on Thursday, so he was celebrating for multiple reasons after the victory. He admitted to being a little nervous and finished with six points on 3-for-10 shooting with seven rebounds.
“I was 0-2 on my birthday, so this is a nice little present for me,” he said.