Gophers upset No. 11 Michigan State at Big Ten tournament

Minnesota will face No. 6 Purdue in Saturday’s semifinals.

Minnesota forward Damian Johnson dunks the ball late in the second half of the Gophers' overtime upset of Michigan State on Friday night.

Minnesota forward Damian Johnson dunks the ball late in the second half of the Gophers’ overtime upset of Michigan State on Friday night.

Marco LaNave

INDIANAPOLIS âÄî Opponents have charged back against the Gophers menâÄôs basketball in so many games this season. But in Friday nightâÄôs Big Ten quarterfinal against No. 11 Michigan State at Conseco Fieldhouse, the Gophers couldnâÄôt afford to run away from the pressure again. The Gophers lost a 10-point lead in the final 8:20 of regulation and fell behind in overtime, but they rose to the challenge for a 72-67 victory that embodied their stories of redemption and sustained their late run at an NCAA tournament bid. âÄúWe’ve had a lot of distractions this yearâĦ but I’ve been so proud of these kids âÄî the way they’ve stayed focused,âÄù said head coach Tubby Smith, whose team won for the sixth time in eight games and gave him his 20th coaching win for the 17th straight season. After coming close twice during the regular season, Minnesota (20-12) snapped an eight-game losing streak to the third-seeded Spartans. The Gophers rallied to within two points with five minutes to play before losing at Michigan State Jan. 13. They blew a 13-point second-half lead in a 65-64 home loss Jan. 23. âÄúThe difference [in] this game [was that] we just stuck with it,âÄù said senior guard Lawrence Westbrook, who missed a go-ahead basket at Michigan State and a potential game-winning, last-second shot in the game at Williams Arena. âÄúWe didnâÄôt put our heads down or anything, it was just on to the next play. When we did that, it gave everybody confidence.âÄù The Gophers needed some after Michigan State (24-8) scored the final seven points in regulation and took a 58-55 lead on a 3-point play by forward Raymar Morgan, who scored a game-high 23 points, with 4:28 remaining in overtime. But Westbrook and sophomore point guard Devoe Joseph combined for 14 points in overtime to help advance Minnesota to SaturdayâÄôs semifinal matchup with No. 6 Purdue, which âÄî like Michigan State before Friday âÄî won by one point at Williams Arena this season and hasnâÄôt lost to a Smith-coached Minnesota team. âÄúThe only thing you can control is your effort and your enthusiasm,âÄù Westbrook said. âÄúWe’re just going to play hard, and if we do that we have enough talent to compete with anybody.âÄù Joseph, who became the starting point guard when junior Al Nolen was ruled ineligible before the second game against Michigan State, played a game-high 43 minutes and scored all of his 17 points in the second half and overtime. He hit a game-tying 3-pointer to break the SpartansâÄô run and later hit another to extend a one-point lead to 62-58. âÄúI was just very composed andâĦvery excited to win the game. I wasn’t trying to put it in my hands; I was just trying to get the shots,âÄù said Joseph, who scored at least 15 points for the fourth time in five games. âÄúI was in the zone to the point where I wasn’t really thinking too much, I was just playing basketball.âÄù Joseph virtually matched Spartans All-Big Ten guard Kalin Lucas, who scored 18 points and had four assists. But Lucas committed a game-high four turnovers and was held to just four first-half points on 2-of-9 shooting by Westbrook, who helped hold Penn StateâÄôs Talor Battle without a field goal for the first 15 minutes of ThursdayâÄôs opening-round win. âÄúI’m just a competitor,âÄù said Westbrook, who had been benched by Smith at times during the regular season because the coach said he wanted the senior guard to player better defense. âÄúI really like playing against guys like that, because it pushes me and it shows I can do another side of my game.âÄù The Gophers established an inside game against Michigan State, as they were only outrebounded 40-39 by the Big TenâÄôs best rebounding team and were only outscored 28-24 on points in the paint. Sophomore center Colton Iverson, whose emergence from a frustrating season coincided with the GophersâÄô recent winning stretch, had 12 points and four rebounds for the second-straight game. âÄúWe were all sick of losing, and we just started feeling like there was a sense of urgency,âÄù Iverson said of the teamâÄôs play in recent weeks. âÄúI just came with a different mindset, with a chip on my shoulder, because people were running all over us. I started coming more prepared for every game.âÄù The Gophers pulled off FridayâÄôs quarterfinal upset as they did two years ago, when now-junior guard Blake Hoffarber made a last-second shot to beat Indiana. But Hoffarber said the players who remember that tournament run ending in a semifinal loss to 10th-seeded Illinois told their teammates after FridayâÄôs win that they must keep steady emotions as they attempt to become the first Minnesota team to advance to a Big Ten championship game. âÄúWe kind of tell them that donâÄôt get too high,âÄù he said. âÄúJust forget about this game. ItâÄôs over with, got the win, and just think about Purdue now.âÄù FridayâÄôs other quarterfinals: No. 1 Ohio State 69, No. 8 Michigan 68 In a battle between two of the best individual talents in the Big Ten, it was conference player of the year Evan Turner who came out on top. Turner pulled up more than 30 feet from the basket to sink a 3-point shot as time expired. MichiganâÄôs All-Big Ten guard Manny Harris scored the last of his game-high 26 points on a jumper that broke a 66-66 tie with 2.2 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Turner took an inbounds pass from the opposite end of the court and dribbled twice before shooting over Wolverines guard Stu Douglass. Michigan (15-17) overcame a 13-point deficit in the final 10:23 to take a 66-64 lead on HarrisâÄôs jumper with 29 seconds to play. Buckeyes guard David Lighty tied it on a jumper with 13 seconds remaining. Lighty and fellow Buckeyes guard William Buford each scored 15 points. Turner finished with 18 points and a game-high eight assists. Douglass and Wolverines forward DeShawn Sims, likely playing in the final game of his collegiate career, each scored 16 points. Ohio State (25-7) advanced to the Big Ten semifinals for the fourth time in five years. No. 5 Illinois 58, No. 4 Wisconsin 54 The Illini watched a 16-point second-half lead shrink to two in the final minute but held on to bolster their NCAA tournament résumé with a win over the No. 18 Badgers (23-8). Wisconsin trailed 50-38 with 1:52 to play, but Badgers guard Trévon Hughes hit four 3-pointers to close the deficit to 56-54 with 31 seconds remaining. Hughes fouled out five seconds later, though, and Badgers guard Jason Bohannon missed a potential game-tying 3-point attempt with 18 seconds to play. Illinois center Mike Tisdale had 21 points and eight rebounds, and forward Mike Davis had a double-double to lead Illinois (19-13), which advanced to the Big Ten semifinals for the fourth straight year and 12th time in the 13-year history of the tournament. Hughes and Orono, Minn., native Jon Leuer each scored 14 points for Wisconsin, which lost for the first time since falling to the Gophers on Feb. 18 at Williams Arena. No. 2 Purdue 69, No. 7 Northwestern 61 All-Big Ten guard EâÄôTwaun Moore scored 28 points, and center JaJuan Johnson added 22 points to help the No. 6 Boilermakers (27-4) avoid an upset. Northwestern (20-13) jumped out to a 17-6 lead, but Purdue trimmed it to 34-30 at halftime and went on a 12-2 run to start the second half. Northwestern cut the lead to 62-61 with 46 seconds remaining, but Boilermakers guard Chris Kramer made a layup and free throw to re-extend the lead. Wildcats forward John Shurna scored 16 points but had six turnovers. Wildcats forward Drew Crawford added 15 points and 10 rebounds.