Dupree McBrayer passed up a shot at the top of the key, drove to the basket with seconds waning and threw the ball away as time expired.
It was a fitting way to end the worst first half of the season for the Gophers, who left the Williams Arena court to boos Monday night trailing 28-24 to Drake.
“I know we stunk,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “But that doesn’t help … unless you want us to lose.”
Back-to-back double-digit road losses to Nebraska and Arkansas last week dropped Minnesota out of the Top 25 rankings for the first time all season.
That should’ve been the wake-up call Pitino’s team needed. But it didn’t get the Gophers’ attention like hearing jeers from their own crowd.
Jordan Murphy’s dominance in the paint with 24 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks was barely enough to help the Gophers escape with a 68-67 victory in front of a surprised home crowd of 11,319.
“It was a great wake-up call for us — we needed it,” Pitino said. “As painful as it was. It was like going to the dentist, but we need that. We found a way to win, and it wasn’t great. But it was a great, great lesson for our guys.”
Murphy finished with his 12th consecutive double-double to start the season, which hadn’t been done by a Division I player since former Kansas State and Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley in 2007-08.
Edina native Graham Woodward, who had 14 points, nailed a three-pointer at the final buzzer that would’ve sealed the major upset, if not for the clutch play of Murphy moments earlier.
Murphy scored his team’s last two baskets with under two minutes left to give the Gophers (9-3) the cushion they needed to end a two-game slide and maybe win back some of their fans.
“I think we were playing with the weight of the world on our shoulders,” said Murphy, the 6-foot-7 junior. “We needed to shake all that stuff off and just play our game. We didn’t look like we were having fun or anything like that. That’s something Coach stressed to us to play with more energy in the second half and play better defense.”
Murphy had 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the first half. The rest of Minnesota’s starters had 10 points on a combined 3-for-19 shooting.
Drake coach and former U assistant Niko Medved took over a program that went 7-24 last season.
But the Bulldogs are 5-5 this season and rank in the top 10 in the nation in three-point shooting at 43 percent. They hit 12 three-pointers Monday.
Noah Thomas hit Drake’s ninth three of the game for a 41-32 lead at the 16:19 mark in the second half. Minnesota needed a spark in the worst way.
Murphy answered the call with an 8-0 run himself, including consecutive dunks to cut it to 41-40.
The Gophers finally took their first lead 30 minutes in with a McBrayer three-pointer to make it 50-47 with nine minutes remaining.
McBrayer’s dunk off a steal and Coffey’s three-point play extended the advantage to seven, but the Bulldogs still had a comeback left in them.
Drake’s bench provided a boost with 29 points. The Gophers got only four points off the bench, but their starters not named Murphy eventually woke up. Coffey scored all of his 16 points in the second half. Nate Mason had 12 points, plus five assists. Reggie Lynch blocked five shots for Minnesota, which now has a 10-day break with finals.