Don't take this the wrong way, but the Gophers deserved a Carr accident.

Someone once said it's amazing how lucky you get when you work hard, and Marcus Carr, the Gophers' junior point guard, works harder than road salt.

He's the Gophers' primary ballhandler. He leads the team in scoring, assists, steals and elbow contusions. His preferred posture seems to be "grimacing while horizontal."

On Thursday afternoon, with 18 seconds remaining in another game that looked like a bar fight against Purdue, Carr launched a long, desperate three-point shot. It caromed in, giving the Gophers a one-point lead and an eventual 71-68 victory.

Yes, it was a fortuitous bounce, but because of the way Carr plays, it felt more like an earned dividend than a stroke of luck.

Unless you're the head coach and you're considering writing an instruction book on unconventional shooting.

"We had worked on banking it from that side, we thought it would be better," Pitino said with a straight face. "He called out 'bank' — you guys couldn't hear it."

Carr's close-enough shot gave the Gophers their most important victory since they beat Michigan 75-57 on Jan. 16. They are 6-7 in the Big Ten with most of their difficult opponents behind them. They've beaten five ranked teams, and they avoided a sweep at the hands of the Boilermakers.

They're one step closer to finishing the conference schedule at .500, which would guarantee them an NCAA tournament berth, and they have Carr to thank for so many of their accomplishments.

This game and Carr's shot were reminders that even as the Gophers have bounced in and out of the national rankings and won impressively against quality teams, they enter every game wondering whether the basket at which they shoot will be sealed with cellophane.

So many basketball stars make the game look easy, because they can use their size or shooting skill to score at will. That's not the case with Carr. He hits the ground or the stanchion after most of his drives, and after spills on two consecutive possessions in the second half, he was slow to get up.

He's not tall enough to shoot at will, and he attracts the opponent's best defensive guard, so he's not always efficient, but the Gophers need his scoring, so he has to keep driving into the paint and taking hockey checks.

There was one play in the second half where we might have seen a brighter future for his floor burns — he drove into the lane and instead of trying to finish while flying by the backboard, dropped in a floater. The floater could be his elbows' salvation.

For much of the afternoon — the game started at 4 p.m. — the ESPN2 broadcast felt like the handiwork of a troll.

The broadcast highlighted Dave Winfield, a Minnesota high school star who stayed home to play for the Gophers back when that wasn't considered unusual.

The halftime interview was Jalen Suggs, the former Minnehaha Academy star who chose to play for Gonzaga.

On the call was Robbie Hummel, an Indiana native who chose to play at Purdue.

What message was ESPN2 trying to send? Or to put it into terms to which every Minnesotan can relate, why doesn't everyone love us?

There's a lot to like in Carr. He isn't only the Gophers' best player; he embodies their style. They don't shoot well enough from the three-point line to make the game easy — although Gabe Kalscheur's 4-for-7 performance on threes made this victory possible.

They play hard. That might sound like faint or empty praise about something that should be expected, but it's not. Effort matters in college basketball.

Whatever their offensive limitations, Carr persists at throwing his body all over the court, Kalscheur excels on defense, and Brandon Johnson and Liam Robbins gamely throw elbows with the likes of Purdue's outstanding and quite large Trevion Williams.

It's not always pretty … or maybe it is. Maybe a banked three-pointer and a point guard sliding off the edge of Williams Arena's raised court is beautiful, when the bank pays dividends.

The columnist did not attend this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.