Gophers fall to No. 24 Michigan in overtime

Isaiah Washington had a career-high 26 points in the overtime loss.

Senior Nate Mason passes the ball on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at Williams Arena.

Ellen Schmidt, Daily File Photo

Senior Nate Mason passes the ball on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at Williams Arena.

Jack Warrick

After a January that saw the Gophers lose seven of nine games, an upset victory would be just what they needed to start the month of February.

But Minnesota couldn’t stay clutch in overtime. With four seconds left, Michigan’s Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman sank a layup. Guard Nate Mason’s game-tying three-point shot missed in overtime, as the Gophers (14-11, 3-9 Big Ten) were defeated 76-73 by the No. 24 Wolverines (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten) on Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich. 

“I’m proud of our guys for their effort,” head coach Richard Pitino told reporters. “To play in front of a sold-out crowd when you’re down two of your top six, no team in college basketball can sustain that. We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves.”

The overtime period saw the lead change four times before Gophers forward Davonte Fitzgerald tied the game at 73-73 with 11 seconds left. But then Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan’s hero of the game, drove to the basket, spun around the Gophers defending guard Jamir Harris, and sank a layup to kill Minnesota’s hopes of a road upset.

“It’s not an excuse,” forward Jordan Murphy told reporters. “I think we should have won the game, but, I mean, they made some good plays down the stretch and we weren’t so good defensively down the stretch.”

Guard Isaiah Washington led the Gophers with a career-high 26 points, shooting 11-16 off the bench.

Mason hit a three-point shot with seconds left to tie the game and bring it into overtime. He was just behind Washington with 22 points, shooting 9-18 from the floor.

The Gophers led through the first 23 minutes of the game, and took a 10-point lead halfway through the second half. But the Wolverines, led by Abdur-Rahkman, clawed back and the game ended in regulation at 63-63.

Pitino elected to go with a smaller lineup against Michigan. Last game, the Gophers had 6-foot-11 Bakary Konaté start at center. For the Michigan game, the smaller, more experienced Murphy played the center position, and Konaté didn’t touch the court.

Gophers usual starting guard Amir Coffey was out for the second game after re-injuring his shoulder.

The loss marks the fifth consecutive game the Gophers have been defeated.

“We’re not making excuses,” Pitino told reporters. “We’ve got to play as close to perfect as we possibly can in order to win. We were close. We know we can play with anybody if we play the right way.”

The Gophers have six games left in the regular season, and they will play Nebraska at home on Tuesday.