Gophers squander 13-point lead in loss to Purdue

A 26-4 second-half Purdue run sunk Minnesota on Sunday.

Junior Amir Coffey lays the ball in at Williams Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 30.

Tony Saunders

Junior Amir Coffey lays the ball in at Williams Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 30.

by Nick Jungheim

When Minnesota took on No. 17 Purdue at Mackey Arena on Sunday, the team knew it woud be facing a red-hot team with a raucous home-court advantage.

Despite the Gophers holding a 13-point second-half lead, the Boilermakers proved to be too much. Minnesota (16-6, 6-5 Big Ten) fell 73-63 in a back-and-forth game. Purdue (16-6, 9-2 Big Ten) pulled away for its seventh-consecutive victory, putting the Boilermakers in a three-way tie for first-place in the Big Ten.

“We went cold at the wrong time,” head coach Richard Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. “We stopped rebounding at the wrong time. We guarded the 3-point line pretty well for a team that shoots a lot of them, but then we didn’t chase down some timely rebounds. And then I thought we missed some pretty good looks as well.”

After Minnesota turned the ball over on its first three possessions, Pitino went to his bench to find production. Sophomore Isaiah Washington had four first-half assists and freshman Daniel Oturu scored the Gophers’ first nine points.  

“Offensively, [Oturu] was terrific,” Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. “9-15 [shooting, he] hit some good jump shots. He’s going to be a really good player.”

Minnesota kept the score close in the first half despite not receiving much production from its biggest stars. Battling foul trouble, senior Jordan Murphy had four turnovers and just two points before halftime. 

Junior Amir Coffey, the Gophers’ leading scorer, also struggled early. He didn’t score his first points until 5:44 remaining in the first half. However, he scored the final points before halftime, a two-handed dunk that gave Minnesota a 28-27 lead, its first of the game. 

After the break, Coffey caught fire, scoring 10 points in the first five minutes of the half. Over that stretch, the Gophers played some of their best basketball of the season, building their lead to as many as 13 points over their ranked foe.  

To that point, Minnesota held the Big Ten’s leading scorer, junior Carsen Edwards in check. He began the game 1-9 from the field. However, as Edwards began to turn things around, so did Purdue. The Gophers’ lead evaporated as quickly as it grew due to a 26-4 Boilermakers run. Edwards scored 15 of his team-leading 17 points in the second half.

“[Edwards] is going to go off a little bit.” Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. “It’s hard. They get loose, they take some tough shots and you have to hope and pray they don’t go in.”

Over the final nine minutes of the game, Minnesota made only four field goals.  Even with 2:30 remaining, the Gophers trailed by five, but a 3-pointer by Purdue senior Grady Eifert put the game out of reach.  

Oturu (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Murphy (10 points, 10 rebounds) recorded double-doubles for Minnesota in defeat. Coffey led all scorers with 22 points. The rest of the team combined for just 12 points.

In addition to Edwards, Purdue had four other players score in double-figures. Freshman Trevion Williams (16 points) and sophomore Matt Haarms (15 points) shot a combined 15-20 from the field. Haarms also added five blocks and eight rebounds (five offensive).

Minnesota returns home to play rival Wisconsin on Wednesday. The Gophers beat the Badgers on Wisconsin’s home court earlier this year for the first time since 2009.

“No question, we’re getting better,” Pitino told the Gopher Radio Network. “We have so many great opportunities in front of us, a great Wisconsin team coming in on Wednesday. We just have to regroup and get better.”