The stakes were high as one of the top modern era Minnesota basketball players took the floor at Williams Arena for the final time. Through the eyes of Gophers fans, it’s been a treat to watch Jordan Murphy shatter records in the maroon and gold. One day, he'll likely have his jersey retired in the rafters. Tuesday night gave fans one final chance to see No. 3 and his teammates take the floor. It was also an opportunity to create one lasting memory together. There’s no doubt they did just that.
When the clock hit zero, following a 73-69 win over No. 11 Purdue, hundreds of students rushed the floor to celebrate. It’s certainly a moment four seniors will never forget.
Between Jordan Murphy’s intensity on the glass, Matz Stockman’s defense, Brock Stull’s rebounding and Dupree McBrayer’s energy, the Gophers edged a Purdue team fighting for a Big Ten title.
With an 8-10 Big Ten record, the Gophers likely needed one final win to secure a bid into the NCAA Tournament. They played like they knew that from the beginning.
Minnesota fought hard and fed off the energy of their seniors and Amir Coffey. The Gophers pushed the tempo and played with intensity on both ends of the court, which helped Coffey thrive. The junior guard had 32 points on 8-for-15 shooting and was playing extra aggressive off the dribble. Coffey became the first Big Ten player to reach 30 points in consecutive games since Iowa’s Matt Gatens in 2012, according to Big Ten Stats. He is the first Minnesota player to accomplish this since Vincent Grier in 2005.
The Gophers opened the game shooting 1-for-7 from the floor until Coffey knocked down a three-pointer. The junior guard quickly found a rhythm as Minnesota pushed the basketball off rebounds or steals. Minnesota's guards combined to snatch 18 rebounds, which helped them push the tempo and thrive offensively. When the Gophers get in transition, the entire landscape of their offense changes. It’s where they thrive the most.
Outside of Coffey, Minnesota also used high-low action when Purdue tried to double in the post. Jordan Murphy muscled his way into piles and came away with tough finishes all night. Murphy had 13 points and 14 rebounds in his final game at the Barn.
However, the three-point shooting of Ryan Cline and Carsen Edwards kept the Boilermakers within striking distance the entire night. Purdue opened the game shooting 4-for-9 from downtown, but the Gophers always managed to fend off small runs. Minnesota led by 12 points in the second half behind active defense. One of the Big Ten’s top players, Carsen Edwards, was just 7-for-31 from the floor because of Gabe Kalscheur and Amir Coffey’s active pressure.
Near the midway point of the second half, Purdue slowly climbed back, hitting four shots in a five-attempt sequence. Ryan Cline drilled a three-pointer and Carsen Edwards added a tough finish at the rim. Like he’s done the past two games, Amir Coffey answered with two attacks, including a tough right-handed layup through contact. Moments later, Purdue’s Grady Eifert drilled a pair of three-pointers and Minnesota’s 12-point lead was trimmed to one in a matter of five minutes. The Gophers went more than five mineutes without a made field goal and missed three shots in close proximity to the rim. Gabe Kalscheur finally put an end to the drought with a long-range three-pointer that sparked a 10-1 Minnesota run. The Gophers grabbed a nine-point lead, but Purdue quickly answered with a pair of three pointers by Ryan Cline to trim the advantage back to three. Minnesota continued to fight and Amir Coffey got to the free throw line, converting five attempts to put the game on ice.
This was a confidence boosting win because of how the Gophers played in a few specific areas. When Minnesota was in the half court, they moved the ball much better and benefited from the performance of senior big-man Matz Stockman. He was helping protect the rim on defense and was an asset off the screen and roll game. Stockman blocked seven shots and looked extremely comfortable in his first stint of extended action. During a critical 10-1 run late in the game, Stockman had a dunk, blocked shot and assist that led to a critical Amir Coffey transition layup.
He hasn’t played many minutes this season, but has been a contributor when he’s on the floor. Stockman had nine points and six rebounds in a season-high 24 minutes of action. With Eric Curry missing the remainder of the season with a foot injury, the senior big-man will be very important for the Gophers in future games.
Guard Brock Stull also saw additional minutes and brought energy on the defensive end, including excellent hustle to grab six loose ball rebounds. This helped Minnesota push the tempo and get guards attacking downhill in transition.
With a signature win over Purdue, the Gophers significantly improved their NCAA Tournament resume heading into a road game against Maryland on Friday.
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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball