In Gophers basketball history, there haven't been many single-game scoring performances like point guard Marcus Carr's career-high 41 points at Nebraska on Saturday night.
The junior standout's near record-breaking performance was bittersweet.
In a must-win game to stay in realistic contention for the NCAA tournament, Carr could carry his shorthanded team only so far, as the Gophers lost their fifth game in a row, falling 78-74 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb.
Carr tied the second-most points in Gophers history, and had the highest-scoring Big Ten game in the program since Oliver Shannon's school-record-tying 42 points vs. Wisconsin in 1971.
"It wasn't surprising, because we all know how talented a player he is," senior Eric Curry said. "Coach actually screamed in the middle of the game, 'Go get us 40.' He did just that."
Overshadowed by Carr's latest attempt at heroism was the fact that the Gophers (13-12, 6-12 Big Ten) fell to 0-9 on the road this season, the only winless Big Ten team away from home.
A Big Ten season that started with high hopes for the Gophers' third trip to the NCAA tournament in five years is crashing down now with a coach's future with the program in serious question after a 10th loss in 13 games.
Pitino had a longer-than-usual postgame talk with the team Saturday night, but he wouldn't share much more than that he wanted them to "enjoy the process."
"I won't tell you everything," Pitino said. "Obviously, we've dealt with a lot of adversity. The one thing I've said over and over again is nobody's going to ever feel sorry for you. That's just the reality of it."
Carr wasn't available to the media after the game, but Pitino said he didn't want to imagine what playing Nebraska (6-17, 2-14) would have been like without him. The injury-plagued Gophers were already without two starters: guard Gabe Kalscheur (broken finger) and center Liam Robbins (ankle).
The Gophers trailed by 13 with 7 minutes, 37 seconds remaining, but the layup that gave Carr his 40th point cut the deficit to 74-73 with 13.6 seconds to play.
Nebraska entered the day 328th in the nation in free-throw percentage and was only 5-for-12 at the line at that point, but Kobe Webster was fouled and drilled two free throws with eight seconds left.
Carr tried to draw a shooting foul on the ensuing possession when he flailed after being snagged by the Huskers, who were trying to prevent a potential tying three. The officials weren't buying it, and Carr, at the line for only two free throws, missed the first. Nebraska's Thor Thorbjarnarson then iced the game with two free throws.
Part of the Gophers' road troubles this season was the play of Carr, who had averaged 13 points on 30% shooting in eight games. That definitely wasn't the issue Saturday.
He scored 20 first-half points, including 15 in a row, but his team still trailed 33-31 at halftime after shooting only 28% from the floor.
The Cornhuskers committed 13 of their 18 turnovers in the first half, which would normally sink most offenses. Not Saturday when they shot 54.5% from the field and scored 38 points in the paint.
Pitino's team has enough quality victories on its résumé, but two of its worst losses have now come in a three-day span, including Thursday at home when Northwestern ended a 13-game losing skid.
The Gophers probably need a deep Big Ten tournament run to get an NCAA tournament bid, but lately they have not resembled a team capable of that type of stretch.
"I'm going to enjoy the process," Curry said. "It's been a long one. I worked my butt off to get to this moment. I'm going to give it my all."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.