After Jordan Murphy’s putback shot beat the halftime buzzer Wednesday night, the Gophers basketball student section erupted to celebrate an 11-point lead against rival Iowa.
Fans chanted “Who hates Iowa?!” as Murphy and his teammates went down to the locker room to cheers.
The Gophers used that momentum to build a 14-point lead in the second half, but they found themselves having to gut out two overtimes in a 101-89 victory against the Hawkeyes in front of 11,481 at Williams Arena.
After losing several close games during a recent five-game losing streak, Minnesota definitely looked like a team that had learned its lesson.
“Proud of our guys,” said Gophers coach Richard Pitino, who believes his team continues to boost its NCAA tournament résumé. “They showed great heart, great character to break through.”
Back-to-back dunks from Amir Coffey and Murphy in the second overtime put an emphatic stamp on what was the most impressive home victory of the season.
“It was definitely a big momentum swing,” Murphy said. “It was really fun to get the fans up and going like that.”
Murphy, who had been going through a sophomore slump this season, eventually fouled out. But the 6-6 forward’s 25-point, 19-rebound, four-block performance might be the breakout game he uses to get back on track.
It was the best game of his young career when his team needed it the most.
“Jordan did that by sheer will,” Pitino said. “When he does that, we’re a really good team.”
Junior guard Nate Mason finished with 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Gophers (17-7, 5-6 Big Ten), who had a season-high 14 blocks.
Senior guard Peter Jok scored 26 of his 28 points after halftime for the Hawkeyes (14-11, 6-6), who had 18 turnovers and saw their three-game winning streak stopped. Jok, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, was playing his second game after returning from a two-game absence because of a back injury. The Hawkeyes won both games without him, but they needed his offensive spark Wednesday night.
Nicholas Baer’s basket with 46 seconds left in regulation gave Iowa a 77-75 lead, but Mason sent the game into overtime on a twisting layup off the glass with nine seconds remaining.
All signs pointed to the Gophers pulling away for their second victory in a row, but they lost their composure during a 14-0 Iowa run fueled by a full-court press that caused eight turnovers in the second half.
Murphy, who finished with his sixth double-double of the season, scored seven of his team’s eight points during a stretch midway through the second half. His reverse layup gave the Gophers a 56-43 lead at 12:28.
Jok answered with a three-point play to spark the long rally for the Hawkeyes. The 6-6 senior’s layup off a steal at midcourt gave Iowa its first lead of the second half 57-56. Minnesota finally ended a four-minute scoring drought with a three-pointer from Akeem Springs.
The Gophers played their fourth overtime game this season after losing their first two, 75-74 against Michigan State on Dec. 27 and 78-76 against Wisconsin on Jan. 21.
Minnesota appeared to be pulling away in the first overtime Wednesday with an 82-77 lead after a three-point play from Mason with 3:31 to play.
But Reggie Lynch fouled out on the next possession to put Cordell Pemsl on the line for a three-point play of his own to give Iowa some life. Lynch finished with three points, 12 rebounds and six blocks in 31 minutes.
The Hawkeyes tied it 84-84 with 1:34 left on a jumper from Jordan Bohannon, sending the game into a second overtime.
In the final period, Bohannon’s three-pointer gave Iowa an 87-86 lead, but Coffey took control with a floater and two-hand slam off a steal to spark a 15-2 run to seal the win.
Coffey finished with 13 points, six assists and three steals. Springs had 12 of his 17 points in the first half for the Gophers, who play again Saturday at Rutgers.