The last time the Gophers men’s basketball team played at least four overtime games during the Big Ten regular season before this year was in 1981.
How old was Minnesota coach Richard Pitino then? He wasn’t born until 1982.
But that was the sixth season under Jim Dutcher, who had a Minnesota team led by Trent Tucker, Randy Breuer, Gary Holmes and Darryl Mitchell. The Gophers finished 19-11 and 9-9 in the Big Ten that year, but they went 1-4 in overtime games in 1980-81.
They played two double-overtime games at home that season, losing 68-67 to Michigan and winning 92-89 against Michigan State. The Gophers lost overtime games against Indiana 56-53 and Iowa 60-58 at home and at Wisconsin 60-58.
Playing in that many overtime games, and losing most of them, showed the Gophers how close they were to breaking through 36 years ago. It didn’t happen that season, but Minnesota won the Big Ten championship with the same core returning in 1981-82.
We’ll see how the overtime experiences will influence this year’s team next season. But so far, Pitino has seen some growth in how players dealt with a tight game in a 101-89 double-overtime victory Wednesday night against Iowa at Williams Arena.
“At the end of games, it comes down to players making big shots,” Pitino said. “It’s funny. We’ve had (11) conference games and four of them have been to overtime. That’s pretty crazy. Maryland was obviously really, really close. Penn State. This is an exciting team to watch. Whether or not we win or lose, I don’t know. But we’re obviously in a lot of close games. From a fan perspective, they’re getting their money’s worth. For us, hopefully that will help them mentally get tougher.”
Pitino said the eight turnovers were “inexplicable” in the second half when Minnesota’s 14-point lead evaporated against Iowa. But the Gophers showed mental toughness to overcome falling behind and send the game into overtime on Nate Mason’s layup. They outscored the Hawkeyes 17-5 in the second overtime to win.
“That showed grit and will,” Pitino said, “because those guys were exhausted.”
It was the Gophers’ second overtime win this season, joining the 91-82 victory at Purdue. Minnesota’s players still remember the sting of overtime losses to Michigan State 75-74 and Wisconsin 78-76 at home this season. But there was a big confidence boost from a double-overtime victory against Iowa Wednesday – and some leftover aches and pains.
“We’re a little tired,” senior Akeem Springs said. “My mother called, and she was like, ‘Akeem, you looked like you just wanted the game to end.’ We were all tired. We were just like, ‘Let’s get one more stop.’ But it was fun to be in that double OT game.”
The Gophers’ four overtime games lead the Big Ten this season.
Every Big Ten team except Northwestern has played an overtime game this year. Wisconsin improved to 3-0 in overtime games after Thursday night’s 70-69 win at Nebraska. The longest game was Indiana’s 110-102 triple-overtime win against Penn State last week. Iowa has lost two double-overtime games to Minnesota and Nebraska. The biggest overtime win for a Big Ten team came when Indiana opened the season with a 103-99 win against Kansas, but that might not be enough to help the Hoosiers reach the NCAA tournament.
Below is a list of the overtime records for Big Ten teams this season.
BIG TEN TEAM RECORDS IN OVERTIME 2016-17
Michigan State 0-1
Ohio State 0-1
Penn State 0-1