Richard Pitino was in his first season as an assistant under his father, Rick Pitino, at Louisville and John Beilein was in his first season as Michigan coach the last time the Gophers men’s basketball team beat the Wolverines at Williams Arena.
That was in 2008. Beilein had owned the Gophers since then, winning 13 of 14 and nine in a row entering Sunday’s matchup at the Barn.
Michigan was the only Big Ten team Pitino hadn’t beaten, and he is now in his fourth season as coach of the Gophers.
That drought ended Sunday night.
The Gophers saw an eight-point lead with three minutes left in regulation vanish after D.J. Wilson’s long three-pointer sent the game into overtime. But they recovered to edge out an 83-78 victory over the Wolverines in front of announced crowd of 12,091 at Williams Arena.
Five is a number that describes a lot for the Gophers. They had five consecutive losses a couple of weeks ago. Now they have five consecutive victories. They also played in their fifth conference overtime game this season, their most since 1980-81.
Pitino, who had been 0-5 vs. Michigan, joked that fans are at least “getting their money’s worth” and “concessions are probably up a little bit.”
“I think at the end of the day, I use the phrase ‘winning plays,’ ” said Pitino, whose team has won three of the five overtime games it has played in the Big Ten. "And we made winning plays, made winning free throws.”
As poorly as the Gophers (20-7, 8-6 Big Ten) shot from the foul line in regulation (missing 12 of 33), they went 7-for-8 in overtime to shoot 28-for-41 in the game. And Michigan shot it even worse, going 9-for-18 on the night, with Derrick Walton (a 90 percent free-throw shooter coming in) and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (78 percent) each going 1-for-4.
Amir Coffey went 4-for-4 on free throws in the last 1:25 of OT, including two with 8.2 seconds remaining to give the Gophers a 81-78 lead.
Jordan Murphy, who finished with a team-high 16 points and 15 rebounds, hit the final two free throws with 1.1 seconds left.
“We stuck with it,” Dupree McBrayer said of the Gophers’ free-throw shooting, “and when we needed to hit them, we hit them.”
McBrayer and Eric Curry scored 15 and 12 points off the bench, respectively. Nate Mason had 13 points and eight assists.
The Gophers, who led 29-27 at halftime, have won five Big Ten regular-season games in a row for the first time since 1997 (officially 1978 since that 1996-97 was vacated). But they had to regroup after another late-game collapse.
The Gophers got a big break with 4:39 left when the Michigan bench was called for a technical foul protesting a foul. Mason and Coffey each hit two free throws for a five-point lead. Murphy followed with an emphatic baseline dunk, and on the following possession Mason was fouled as he made a three-pointer, a four-point play to give his team a 68-60 lead with 2:54 to go.
But back-to-back turnovers by Mason and McBrayer led to easy Michigan baskets, and Walton’s three-point play made it 70-67 with 64 seconds to play. The Wolverines then made it a one-point game on Wilson’s jump hook with 12.8 seconds left.
McBrayer calmly hit two free throws to restore the three-point lead. But Michigan had 8.1 seconds left, more than enough time for Wilson to nail a three-pointer from well beyond the three-point line with 1.8 seconds remaining. Pitino chose not to foul.
“We were pretty dejected after that,” Pitino said. “Everyone was just kind of staring. It was good for us to respond, because that was a tough shot.”
Said Murphy: “We just knew we had to stay composed and stay confident. We had been here before. We know we’ve had success in overtime.”
Wilson and Walton each had 16 points, and Moritz Wagner had 15 points and seven rebounds before fouling out for the Wolverines (16-10, 7-7), who had won three in a row.
Murphy and Reggie Lynch took advantage of their strength in the paint to combine for 27 points and 23 rebounds. The Gophers had a 44-31 rebounding advantage, leading to a 17-0 edge on second-chance points.
“That’s become a little bit of our identity,” Pitino said. “We’re doing a pretty good job there.”