The Gophers lost their third straight game on Wednesday night, falling to Purdue 77-74 in three overtimes.
“We’ve got a pretty disappointed team [in the locker room],” Gophers head coach Richard Pitino told 1500ESPN after the game. “We’re close.”
The Gophers were dominated on the glass all game.
Purdue pulled down an astonishing 23 offensive rebounds.
“I think the reason we lost the game, more than anything, is we got stops, and then they kept getting loose balls,” Pitino told 1500ESPN. “You’ve got to give them credit. They just found a way to get it.”
Yet despite losing many of the loose-ball battles all night, Minnesota had a shot in overtime — thanks to a crazy finish to regulation.
Trailing 60-58 with four seconds remaining, junior center Elliott Eliason snagged a rebound off a Terone Johnson missed free-throw and sent an outlet pass to a streaking Austin Hollins, who hit a floater at the buzzer to send the contest into overtime.
Purdue kept the Gophers in the game for much of the contest with its porous effort from the charity stripe. The Boilermakers shot 9 for 23 from the free-throw line.
Minnesota actually had a chance to win the game in the second extra session. Senior guard Malik Smith had a look from beyond the arc as time expired, but his attempt bounced off the iron.
Purdue was carried down low by sophomore center A.J. Hammons led the charge down low for the Boilermakers. 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. 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 suffering 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 received contributions from DeAndre Mathieu, who finished with 15 points, and Austin Hollins, who chipped in 14 in 51 minutes.
Each of 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 told 1500ESPN. “If you’re focusing on big picture, I think we’re really improving.”