Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson

Senior Aaron Robinson keyed a crucial run for the second-straight game.

Bob Wothe

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – If Minnesota’s men’s basketball team garners an NCAA bid when the brackets are announced March 13, it can thank senior Aaron Robinson.

For the second-straight game, Robinson almost single-handedly erased a second-half deficit with hot three-point shooting and defensive intensity.

After keying a 13-0 run that broke Iowa’s back Wednesday, Robinson scored 11 of 13 points as the Gophers (19-9, 9-6 Big Ten) erased a 15-point second-half deficit and held on to win 59-57 at Purdue.

“It was a hard-fought game with a lot of emotion to it, and I don’t think either team didn’t play with tremendous effort and passion,” coach Dan Monson said. “I told our leaders at halftime they’ll have to step up down the stretch.”

And step up Robinson did.

In front of an announced sellout crowd of 14,123 at Mackey Arena in Gene Keady’s last home game in West Lafayette, Robinson helped the Gophers close the game on a 34-17 run after trailing 40-25 with less than 15 minutes to play.

After a quick six points brought the Gophers within nine at 40-31, the 5-foot-10-inch point guard scored eight straight points for the Gophers on a run that brought them within two at 46-44.

“If I have a bad first half, I just tell myself I can’t let this one slip away,” Robinson said. “I can’t live with any regrets, so I channel all the negative stuff in so I can play better.”

Whatever he’s done, it’s worked.

Purdue (7-18, 3-11) dominated most of the game, getting Jeff Hagen in foul trouble and holding him to just four points and three rebounds.

But after Hagen left with four fouls and Charles Davis hit two free throws to give Purdue its largest lead at 40-25, Minnesota went on a 12-0 run capped by Robinson’s second three-pointer in a row to bring the game within three at 40-37.

The run continued to snowball, and Minnesota took its first lead in nearly 30 minutes on Vincent Grier’s windmill dunk on a fast break at 50-48.

But the Boilermakers were unwilling to let their legendary coach leave without at least putting up a fight.

Purdue clawed back and took a 56-55 lead before Dan Coleman buried a three-pointer to take a 58-56 lead with 1:12 left.

Three free-throw misses by Minnesota gave Purdue two final chances to tie or to take the lead, but Chris Hartley’s three-pointer from the corner found only air and Brandon McKnight missed an open 15-footer at the buzzer, allowing the Gophers to crash Keady’s party.

“We don’t apologize,” Hagen said. “But it’s sad to see such a terrific coach leave on a loss.”

Before Robinson sparked the Gophers, however, Minnesota was the consummate, gracious guest in Keady’s last game as a host.

Purdue led 20-6 at one point, and Minnesota was lucky to be down just 31-18 at halftime after having just three assists and 11 turnovers to go along with 7-of-23 shooting in the first half.

In addition, the Boilermakers outrebounded the Gophers 20-11 in the first half and shot 47 percent, thanks to 22 points in the paint and 14 second-chance points.

But in the end, Robinson made sure it didn’t matter Minnesota went 11 minutes in the first half without scoring more than one field goal.

“Anybody that watched this team all year knows that we’re a good second-half team when it comes to offense,” Robinson said. “He’s a tremendous coach, and I hate to see him go out with a loss.

“But that’s the way the ball bounces. I don’t want to lose, he don’t want to lose – somebody’s got to lose.”