Gophers beat Butler 73-72 to advance in NIT

The Gophers men's basketball team beat Butler 73-72 Tuesday night to advance in the NIT. (University of Minnesota Athletics)

The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team certainly played Tuesday night like the NIT matters.

The Gophers had Butler at arm’s length the entire second half, and Elijah Hawkins hit a pair of free throws with 5.3 seconds to play to lift Minnesota to a 73-72 win over the Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Hawkins finished with 11 points, 15 assists and six rebounds.

Dawson Garcia led the Gophers with 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Pharrel Payne added 11 points and five rebounds, and Parker Fox had 10 points, two rebounds, two blocked shots and the biggest steal of the night. He stole a Butler pass that eventually led to Hawkins’ game-winning free throws.

"I want to think big picture and we want to do our best to keep playing and keep winning and being in environments like this where we can win and grow. Win a game late, and win a game on the road against a hungry team. Continue to play for something like a championship, that’s important for our growth," Gophers' coach Ben Johnson told KTLK Radio after the win.

The Gophers (19-14) had five players in double figures in the win. They had 24 assists on 30 made shots, and outscored Butler 14-6 in fast break points.

Despite getting two early fouls, Jahmyl Telfort led Butler with 25 points. He had a chance for the game-winning shot as time expired, but Braeden Carrington had the play heavily-contested and it wasn't close to seal a Minnesota win.

Minnesota advances in the NIT to face Wednesday night’s Indiana State/SMU winner either Saturday or Sunday, likely on the road.