Richard Pitino is the youngest coach among power conferences in college basketball, but he probably aged a decade after the Gophers’ thrilling 101-89 double-overtime victory Wednesday night against Iowa.
When it was all over, Pitino took a deep breath before the post-game press conference and talked about how this was the “most proud” he’s ever been with his basketball team.
“That’s a very, very good win for our guys,” Pitino said. “We broke through at home. Great environment. I thought the students were awesome. Overall, (I’m) extremely, extremely proud of our guys. Probably the most proud since I’ve been here.”
Jordan Murphy (25 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks) and Nate Mason (25 points and seven assists), basically put the Gophers on their backs when it had all the makings of another close loss, especially when a 14-point second-half lead vanished.
Mason had 13 points after halftime, including a layup with nine seconds left to send the game into the first overtime.
“They just fought through it,” Pitino said. “They were really tired. I was refusing to sub. And they squandered a lead and they fought through it. Nate Mason made winning plays in the end. Jordan Murphy made winning plays at the end. I just think it was one of those deals where we had to breakthrough at some point. We’ve had a bunch of overtime games. This is a team I continue to be very, very excited about – and they showed that tonight.”
This is Pitino’s fourth season with the Gophers. In that time, they’ve been 4-7 in overtime games, including 2-2 this season. Some of the best overtime wins in the last four years include 91-82 at Purdue this season with Nate Mason finishing with 31 points and 11 assists, 96-90 against No. 25 Michigan State in East Lansing in 2015 and 67-64 against Florida State to reach the NIT championship game at Madison Square Garden in 2014.
But those big victories were away from Williams Arena. This was the first time the Gophers won an overtime game under Pitino at home, making the players enjoy it even more since they lost to Michigan State and Wisconsin by just three combined points in two previous overtimes this season.
“A lot of our losses were really, really close losses,” said Murphy, who had 19 points after halftime Wednesday. “So that just really gives us a lot of confidence going into the next game and any other close game we have. We know we can just ride it out any way we need to.”
-- Wednesday was the first double-overtime win for the Gophers since they defeated Clemson 90-84 in the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1996-97. In case you forgot (since it no longer exists in the records), they would eventually beat UCLA in the Elite Eight and fall to Kentucky in the Final Four. Officially, it was Minnesota’s first double-overtime win since beating Ohio State 89-80 on Feb. 2, 1983.
-- The Gophers also scored 100 points in a Big Ten game for the first time since a 105-74 win against Northwestern on Jan. 11, 1995. They broke the century mark in conference play three times in 1994, with a 109-78 win at Wisconsin, 106-56 win against Indiana and a 107-96 triple-overtime win against Iowa at the Barn. Those games were vacated. So officially, the last 100-point game in Big Ten play for the Gophers came during the 1990 Elite Eight season. They won 102-80 at Iowa on Feb. 24 and 108-89 against Indiana on Jan. 28 that year.
-- Mason and Amir Coffey had career-highs in minutes played with 45 each, but they only committed one turnover apiece and combined for 13 of the team's 20 assists.
-- The Gophers finished with a season-high 14 blocks, including six from Reggie Lynch. Lynch replaced Elliott Eliason for seventh on the school's single-season blocks list with 74.