WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. – It’s basically as good as gold on an NCAA tournament résumé if you can steal a victory in a hostile environment like Mackey Arena.
That’s why Gophers coach Richard Pitino hurt so much for his team after watching players such as Daniel Oturu and Marcus Carr give everything they had only to see a signature victory slip away in Thursday’s heartbreaking 83-78 double-overtime loss to Purdue.
“As long as I’ve been a coach, that’s as proud as I’ve been of an effort,” Pitino said. “Marcus was unbelievable at times. Daniel did some good things. We scratched and clawed against a really good team on their home court.”
Oturu finished with a career-high 29 points, plus 18 rebounds, and Carr had 27 points, but he wore down late and was responsible for seven of the Gophers’ 18 turnovers.
The Gophers (7-6, 1-2 Big Ten), who had won three in a row, had all the momentum in regulation after erasing an eight-point second-half deficit to lead by five with under three minutes to go. They were again so close to tasting victory in the first overtime, leading with under a minute to play. They battled back one last time late in the second overtime to tie the score at 75-75, but too many mistakes caught up to them.
“Didn’t come up with the win,” Pitino said. “That’s certainly devastating, but it’s my job to get our guys to understand and keep it in perspective. If we continue to play that hard and with that fight, we’re going to win games in this league.”
The Boilermakers (9-5, 2-1), who won their 14th consecutive Big Ten game at home, showed why they are so tough to beat in one of the loudest arenas in college basketball.
In just his second game back after being sidelined by a concussion, Purdue’s 7-3 center, Matt Haarms, came off the bench to score 26 points, including 10 in the two overtimes. The Boilermakers outscored the Gophers 14-9 in the last period, and it was Sasha Stefanovic’s three-pointer — Purdue’s 11th of the game — with 1:10 left that was the go-ahead basket.
“The game comes down to a play or two each in regulation and in overtime,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Obviously this game could’ve gone either way.”
Carr and Oturu carried their team in the second half after the Gophers trailed 49-41 at the 12-minute mark.
In the first half, Oturu struggled early against Haarms and 6-9, 270-pound Trevion Williams, but Oturu scored 24 points after halftime. Haarms got the upper hand in overtime, though, when Oturu had four fouls and Jarvis Omersa fouled out.
Carr had 14 points in the second half, but his last basket of the game came with 3:18 left in regulation, on a layup to put Minnesota ahead 62-57.
The sophomore point guard tried to match some of the heroics he showed in his 35-point effort last month against Ohio State. But the absence of Payton Willis for the third consecutive game because of an ankle injury made Carr a solo act in 48 minutes against Purdue’s pressure.
His back-to-back turnovers were costly when the Gophers tried to put the game away in regulation, eventually leading to Stefanovic’s game-tying three-pointer with 15.5 seconds left.
“We didn’t really have another ballhandler other than him late in the game,” senior Alihan Demir said. “I’m sure he had some fatigue that affected his decision-making and turnovers, but we shouldn’t have [let] the game come down to there.”