Jordan Murphy found himself with the ball and not enough time to hit an open teammate with seconds winding down in the first half Sunday against Iowa.
Known for punishing opponents in the paint, the 6-7 senior decided why not let it fly from three-point range to beat the buzzer. Murphy swished it for a nine-point halftime lead for the Gophers, who had everything falling for them in shooting 65 percent in the half.
In contrast to below-zero temperatures outside Williams Arena, Minnesota was scorching hot early and overcame poor free-throw shooting and a stifling press late in hanging on for a 92-87 victory against the No. 19 Hawkeyes.
Murphy, Amir Coffey and Gabe Kalscheur combined for 65 points for the Gophers (15-5, 5-4 Big Ten), who got their third win against a ranked opponent this season, bouncing back after a buzzer-beating loss at Michigan.
Big man Daniel Oturu missed the game because of a shoulder injury, but the Gophers made up for the loss of a double-digit scorer by shooting 57 percent from the field and dishing out 25 assists on 32 field goals.
Not since Richard Pitino’s first season coaching Minnesota in 2013-14 had the program beaten border rivals Wisconsin and Iowa in the same season.
“I think they were fundamental,” Pitino said of his players on offense. “I think they took what the defense gave them. They had some confidence offensively early. They made shots. We’re not a bad shooting team … when we get the ball moving, good things can happen.”
Iowa wasn’t the first team to throw a zone or even a three-quarter-court trap at the Gophers this season. But in the first 24 minutes, the Gophers attacked inside with Murphy, got Kalscheur open for jumpers outside and let Coffey get his all-around scoring going in transition.
Murphy was perfect from the field and the foul line in the first half (both 4-for-4). Minnesota’s dynamic trio drew double-teams and shared the ball, making 14 of the team’s 17 first-half assists.
In the second half, Dupree McBrayer connected with Coffey for two alley-oop dunks on the break, firing up the announced 11,582 in attendance.
Coffey’s three gave the Gophers their biggest lead at 81-65 with a little less than six minutes to go, but they were outscored 13-1 after tensing up a bit.
What looked like a surefire blowout for the Gophers turned quickly after Iowa’s 1-2-2 press forced careless turnovers. A 16-point lead was cut to 81-76 after Luke Garza’s three. Tyler Cook’s layup made it 82-78 with under two minutes to go.
McBrayer, Murphy, Coffey and Eric Curry went 2-for-10 from the foul line — with five consecutive misses —during a stretch that allowed Iowa to rally.
Kalscheur’s turnaround jump shot eased things and ended a four-minute scoring drought from the field and made it 84-78. The crowd erupted soon after when Curry grabbed a tipped pass in the open floor and slammed with two hands for a seven-point advantage.
Garza and Isaiah Moss had 48 points combined for the Hawkeyes, but they fell for the second consecutive time in the rivalry on the road.
The Gophers, who also won against then-No. 24 Nebraska on Dec. 5 at the Barn, now look to avenge a 27-point loss Jan. 16 at Illinois in a rematch Wednesday at home.
“We can play with anybody, whether they’re ranked or not,” Coffey said. “If we just focus on scouting and come into games prepared, we can beat any team.”