Minnesota lost to Nebraska in Lincoln 62-61. With the loss, Minnesota has now lost four straight in conference. The magic number remains four.
The Gophers had an early 11 point in the first half thanks to cold Nebraska shooting and a hot start from Daniel Oturu. Oturu scored 10 of the first 21 Minnesota points. He finished with 16 points on the night and added 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals, and an assist. Oturu’s improvement on offense has been notable the last month as he showed off a short jumper along with an additional post move. Unfortunately for Minnesota, the rest of the team took a break in the first half and let Nebraska cut it to within one at the half.
In the second half, Minnesota explicitly went to a single set, “Get Murph the ball.” Murphy finished with another double double of 19 points and 13 rebounds. With under two minutes to go, Murphy made a strong post move on Roby to get a bucket to put Minnesota up by 2 points. James Palmer Jr. made one of two shots from the line and Minnesota had a chance to seal the deal. Instead, Murphy was called for a charge (deserved) after a dubious late horns set. That set up Nebraska for a chance to win the game from the field. Thomas Allen drove the lane and was blocked by Oturu. The ball went out of bounds on a Minnesota player.
Nebraska inbounded the ball with 1.9 seconds to James Palmer Jr. who pumped twice and then jumped into a straight vertical Amir Coffey. An official called a shooting foul because being a fan of Minnesota sports team is a pit of infinite sadness. Palmer Jr. made two free throws and Minnesota now has no room for error and the need to get at least one upset win to make the NCAA tournament.
Minnesota only shot 8 free throws all night, but made 6 three pointers. Neither of those numbers make much sense given how the season has played out. Amir Coffey made three of five on his way to 11 points. Nebraska did a good job cutting off driving lanes in the second half, but Minnesota perhaps had some opportunities to look to the roll and the cutter that they did not convert.
Dupree McBrayer had seven points on 3-7 shooting and just 1-4 from deep. At this point, it is hard to say anything other than this being a lost senior season for the guard. McBrayer’s lack of production from three has been the most glaring all season, but tonight he missed a wide open one late that would have been the difference in the game.
Pitino played a very short bench tonight. The Eric Curry injury has meant that the rotation in the front court has little scoring punch when Murphy and Oturu need to sit. Tonight was an example.
Watson also traveled on the inbounds pass. The sighs cannot be loud enough.