No player in the Big Ten gets pushed, shoved and is the on the receiving end of more questionable fouls during a game it seems than Jordan Murphy.
Still, the Gophers senior forward gets up, shakes off the hits and continues to battle in the paint often against players bigger and taller than his 6-foot-7 frame.
Murphy, who had 16 points and 19 rebounds in Wednesday’s 56-51 loss against Wisconsin, was named to the top-10 watch list Thursday for the Karl Malone Award, given to the top power forward in college basketball. He ranks No. 2 all-time in Big Ten history with 1,189 rebounds and averages a league-best 12.1 per game this season.
On Wednesday, Murphy addressed the physical and sometimes questionable tactics used by the Badgers to frustrate him and his teammates, including when Wisconsin guard Brad Davison apparently sticking his foot under Murphy on a rebound.
“At the end of the day, you just got to keep playing and have some heart,” Murphy said. “There are many plays where I ended up on the ground. It’s not just Brad and all that, just him by himself. I think there are a couple plays that were close to being a foul or something more than that. It’s not just him in general. I know he has a reputation, but I didn’t think he did anything tonight that I saw.”
Murphy leads the Big Ten and ranks among the nation’s leaders with more than seven free throw attempts per game, so it’s clear that he takes a beating every night. He shot 6-for-16 from the field and 4-for-5 from the foul line Wednesday, but there were several no-calls when Murphy ended up on his back.
Minnesota had more fouls called in the game 16-13, but Wisconsin had zero fouls in the first half.
“Tough kid,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said about Murphy. “Just competes. That was a physical, physical game. He got up and just kept competing.”
Murphy knows better than anyone about the grind-it-out style of the Big Ten. He hopes the Gophers can play through the physicality and not let it affect them offensively after back-to-back losses.
"It's a very physical game," Murphy said. "We just got to keep working, keep executing our stuff and keep sticking to the game plan, honestly. That's what it all comes down to at the end of the day. We just got to keep being tough and keep being physical. We can't let anything discourage us."