Gophers fall to Purdue in triple overtime

Minnesota has now lost three straight and is in dire need of a turnaround.

by Jace Frederick

The Gophers lost their third straight game Wednesday night, falling to Purdue 77-74 in triple overtime.

“We’ve got a pretty disappointed team [in the locker room],” head coach Richard Pitino told reporters after the game. “We’re close.”

The Gophers were dominated on the glass all game, and that proved to be the difference.

Purdue corralled an astonishing 23 offensive rebounds and used that to score valuable second-chance points.

“I think the reason we lost the game, more than anything, is we got stops, and then they kept getting loose balls,” Pitino told reporters. “You’ve got to give them credit. They just found a way to get it.”

Still, even though Minnesota lost many of the loose-ball battles on the night, it had a shot in overtime — thanks to a crazy finish to regulation.

The Gophers trailed 60-58 with four seconds remaining, and then junior center Elliott Eliason snagged a rebound off a missed free throw and sent an outlet pass to a streaking Austin Hollins. Hollins controlled the ball and hit a floater at the buzzer to send the contest into overtime.

That’s when things got even more interesting.

Purdue kept Minnesota in the game for much of the contest with its dreadful effort from the charity stripe. The Boilermakers shot 9-for-23 from the
free-throw line.

The Gophers had a shot at winning the game in the second extra session. As time wound down, senior guard Malik Smith had a look from beyond the arc, but his attempt bounced off the iron.

In the third overtime, the Boilermakers pulled away down the stretch and ultimately put the game out of reach in the final seconds.

Purdue was carried down low by sophomore center AJ Hammons. He finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks.

Hammons had just seven points and one rebound in the Gophers’ 82-79 win over Purdue in Minneapolis on Jan. 5.

The Gophers were able to match Hammons’ interior scoring with efforts from their backup big men, as junior center Mo Walker and sophomore forward Joey King combined for 31 points and 15 boards.

Andre Hollins made a surprise return to the Gophers’ starting lineup on Wednesday night, just two weeks after a severe left ankle sprain.

He finished with eight points in 36 minutes.

“He was good,” Pitino said “He gave us good energy. … We just need him in the game.”

The Gophers also got contributions from junior point guard DeAndre Mathieu, who finished with 15 points, and senior guard Austin Hollins, who chipped in 14 points.

The Gophers’ last three losses have come by four points or less. They’ll try to get back into the win column when they host Indiana on Saturday night.

“If we continue to fight the way that we’re fighting, continue to compete the way that we’re competing, I think we’re going to go on a run,” Pitino said. “If you’re focusing on big picture, I think we’re really improving.”