Richard Pitino was the last member of the Gophers men's basketball team to walk up the Williams Arena steps after Saturday's 77-70 loss to Rutgers ended its regular season.
Pitino, with his family by his side, took one long look at the Barn's raised floor before making his way out of the building that he has called home for the past eight seasons.
Was this the last time he would coach this team on that court? The only thing Pitino knows for sure is that he'll meet with athletic director Mark Coyle after the season.
"I hate that we came up short," Pitino said after the Gophers' seventh straight loss. "I can't ask for anything more from these guys."
For a moment earlier Saturday, Pitino and his players seemed to forget the injuries and the frustration of a tumultuous season nearing the end. One shot made the day better, for a while.
Marcus Carr's only field goal came with 46 seconds left, a three-pointer that tied the score 63-63 and sent the game into overtime, where the comeback attempt fell short.
Carr, who has pro aspirations beyond this season, scored just seven points on 1-for-13 shooting, including 1-for-8 from three-point range in 38 minutes.
The junior standout point guard was the last player to leave the court after the entire team sung the rouser. Carr embraced associated head coach Ed Conroy as he walked slowly down toward the locker room beneath the Barn.
The Gophers (13-14, 6-14 Big Ten) were hoping to take some momentum into next week's Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, but instead another game ended in disappointment.
"Obviously, we're not happy with the results," said senior Brandon Johnson, who had a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds. "But I am happy with the effort. I'm happy how everybody played. We gave it all we had."
When the Gophers opened the season 11-0 at home, they did so with wins over top-10 opponents Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State. Rutgers (14-10, 10-10) was the third straight opponent to beat them at home, but Pitino's team was undermanned.
Starting center Liam Robbins missed his fourth straight game with an ankle injury. Lockdown perimeter defender Gabe Kalscheur missed his fifth straight game with a broken finger.
Still, the Gophers outrebounded Rutgers 44-43 despite being the worst team in the Big Ten in rebounding margin. They made up for Carr's struggles and 31% field goal shooting as a team by shooting 24-for-29 at the foul line.
A small group of fans in attendance for Senior Day was energized when Minnesota responded after trailing 52-38 midway through the second half. Jamal Mashburn's layup capped a 6-0 run that cut the deficit to two, 61-59, with 2:11 left to play in regulation.
The Scarlet Knights, who were 0-5 at the Barn entering the game, extended it to a four-point advantage on Geo Baker's free throws on the ensuing possession.
After Tre' Williams hit one of two free throws to make it 63-60, the Gophers came up with a clutch defensive stop to give their captain and closer a chance to redeem himself.
Carr was 0-for-11 from the field before he broke away from his defender for just enough space to sink a three in front of Minnesota's bench. It resembled the late-game heroics he showed a few times this season, most recently in the Feb. 11 win over Purdue.
The Scarlet Knights were outscored 12-2 and held scoreless from the field for the last 5:56 of the second half, but they scored the first six points in overtime to take control again.
Mashburn, who had 17 points, hit two free throws to make it 71-68 with 2:06 left in the extra period, but the shorthanded Gophers weren't able to complete the comeback.
Next for Pitino and the Gophers is the Big Ten tournament opener Wednesday in Indianapolis, where they'll likely have the 12th seed and try to make a run to extend their season.
"This is one of the best leagues in the history of college basketball," Pitino said. "I thought we were right there until injuries hit."