WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. – The Gophers had their hottest shooting start of the season, making their first eight shots to take a 13-point first-half lead Sunday at Purdue, but it was how they finally learned to finish that mattered most.
Behind Nate Mason’s career-high 31 points and 11 assists, Richard Pitino picked up his biggest victory as Gophers men’s basketball coach, 91-82 in overtime Sunday against the No. 15 Boilermakers in front of an announced crowd of 14,428 at Mackey Arena.
“It was a great win,” Pitino said. “It’s great for a lot of things. We had a long, tough offseason and we deserved it. But we had to sit there and take it. It’s nice for them to feel some success, sitting at 13-2 with a young team with a lot of room to grow.”
The Gophers (13-2, 1-1 Big Ten) won in West Lafayette for the first time since 2005. Caleb Swanigan had 28 points and 22 rebounds for the Boilermakers (12-3, 1-1), who suffered only their third loss at home in the past 34 games.
Freshman Eric Curry scored seven of his 10 points in overtime to spark an 11-0 run that sealed the Gophers’ first Big Ten win this season and first conference road win since the 2014-15 season.
“This is very important for our confidence,” Curry said. “We just have to stay focused. This road win helps a lot.”
The Gophers were emotionally drained earlier in the week after blowing a 14-point second-half lead in Tuesday’s 75-74 overtime home loss against Michigan State. The Spartans seemed vulnerable, but they outplayed Minnesota down the stretch.
The Gophers came in Sunday as 15-point underdogs, especially after Purdue won 89-67 at home vs. Iowa on Wednesday.
Pitino, who had his father, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, and oldest daughter at the game, wrote on the locker room board before the game the word “respond.”
“There was no sleepwalking in the beginning of the game,” Richard Pitino said. “We showed great growth.”
Pitino was previously 4-23 in Big Ten road games, including 0-9 last season. His last road victory in the conference before Sunday was winning at No. 25 Michigan State in 2015. That was the program’s first victory in East Lansing since the 1996-97 season.
Sunday’s victory was even bigger, though.
After squandering their lead in the second half, the Gophers fought back to take a 73-71 advantage with 3 minutes, 6 seconds left in regulation on Dupree McBrayer’s high-arching shot off the glass.
But Jordan Murphy, who finished with 16 points and six rebounds, had fouled out for Minnesota with 4:03 left. Bakary Konate also fouled out trying to defend Swanigan, who later tied the score 73-73 with 4.4 seconds left.
The Gophers had a chance to set up a winning shot after a timeout. They missed two potential winners in regulation and overtime against Michigan State.
On Sunday, McBrayer got a good look on a deep three-pointer after catching a pass from Mason in stride, but he couldn’t connect at the regulation buzzer. The Gophers found a way this time, though, to get past their failure to close the game in regulation.
The Boilermakers entered Sunday as the Big Ten’s top shooting team, leading the conference in field goal percentage (49.8) and three-point shooting percentage (41.4). But they shot only 40 percent (30-for-75) against Minnesota.
Mason’s floater early in the first half helped build a 17-4 lead for the Gophers, who made their first eight shots while Purdue started 1-for-7.
But in the second half, the Gophers started cold, shooting 1-for-13 during a near-five- minute stretch. Meanwhile, Carsen Edwards gave the Boilermakers their first lead, on a three-pointer that made it 45-43.
After Purdue led by as many as seven points in the second half, Mason scored 10 of his team’s 13 points as the Gophers regained the lead.
Even into overtime, the Gophers stayed in attack mode. Curry, Mason and McBrayer help their team outscore Purdue 18-9 in the extra period.
“We were so excited to get this win,” Mason said. “In the huddles, we were locked in. Everybody was locked in, [saying], ‘We’re not giving this one up.’ ”