ANN ARBOR, MICH. – Before Saturday's game, Richard Pitino sat comfortably on the bench watching Gophers players during warmups. The fifth-year coach then walked around talking with Michigan fans and the opposing team.
Pitino didn't seem like a coach feeling the pressure of a late-season slide — and his players reflected that calm demeanor on the court until the very end.
Looking for their first victory over a ranked Big Ten opponent this season, the Gophers never trailed for the first 22½ minutes and had a 10-point second-half lead. But they couldn't hold on, falling 76-73 in overtime to the No. 24 Wolverines in front of an announced sellout crowd of 12,707 at Crisler Center.
"This one stings," Pitino said. "I thought we played really good defense. Offensively, we did some really good things. It just came down to, we missed a shot and they made a big play. But I can't fault our guys — we really battled."
Nate Mason drilled a three-pointer with 5.3 seconds left to send the game into OT tied 63-63. Michigan's Duncan Robinson lost the ball out of bounds after being trapped on a full-court press, giving the Gophers the ball back with a chance to tie.
Mason finished with 22 points for the Gophers (14-11, 3-9 Big Ten), but they couldn't avoid losing for the seventh time in eight games, including their fifth in a row.
Freshman guard Isaiah Washington scored a career-high 26 points on 11-for-16 shooting. He made two free throws to put the Gophers up 71-70 with 1:38 left in overtime.
Davonte Fitzgerald's layup answered one from Michigan's Zavier Simpson and tied it at 73-73, but Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's three-point play sealed the victory with 3.8 seconds to go in the extended period. Abdur-Rahkman finished with 17 points, leading five Wolverines players in double figures.
Starting as an undersized 6-7 center Saturday, the Gophers' Jordan Murphy had 12 points and six rebounds before fouling out with two minutes left in overtime.
Pitino went with a seven-man rotation. He had his players constantly switch on screens defensively, playing small ball. But the Gophers still fell to 1-8 without suspended center Reggie Lynch. Injured guard Amir Coffey also missed his second game in a row because of a right shoulder injury.
"We're not feeling sorry for ourselves," Pitino said. "We've got to play as close to perfect as we possibly can in order to win. We were close. We know we can play with anybody if we play the right way."
The Gophers trailed for the first time in the game 38-37 after a free throw from Moritz Wagner with 16:15 left in the second half. They responded with a 13-2 run led by Washington's seven points, including a shot off the glass plus a foul on Zavier Simpson.
The 6-1 Harlem native flexed to the cameras before nailing a free throw for his 20th point. Mason nailed a jumper a minute later for a 50-40 Gophers advantage at 11:16.
The Wolverines (19-6, 8-4) trailed by seven after two free throws from Fitzgerald at 7:14. But Michigan's 10-2 run gave it a 57-56 lead after Robinson stole the ball from Washington and scored in transition.
Michigan thought it sealed the comeback victory after a slam from Charles Matthews made it 63-58 with 28 seconds to go in regulation, but the Gophers still had some fight left in them.
Washington, who had 15 points and seven assists in Tuesday's 94-80 loss at Iowa, emerged in the past two games for the Gophers after he played just 20 minutes combined over four games in January.
The Gophers, who return to play Tuesday at home against Nebraska, got a combined 46 points from Mason and Washington. But they gave up 40 points in the paint and lost the rebounding battle 43-36, which included 11 offensive rebounds.
"We were really shorthanded, but it's not an excuse," Murphy said. "I think we should've won the game. They made some good plays and we weren't so good defensively down the stretch."