Senior Night special: Gophers beat Purdue, 73-69

On Senior Night at Williams Arena, it was one Gophers senior who hadn’t played much all season that sparked Minnesota to its biggest win of the year.

Matz Stockman scored nine points, grabbed six rebounds and stifled the Purdue offense with seven blocked shots in a season-high 24 minutes as Minnesota beat No. 11 Purdue 73-69 in the final regular season home game. Stockman didn’t play in the last three games, and had only played double digits in minutes in three previous Big Ten games.

His nine points tied a season-high. He also scored nine in the season-opener against Nebraska-Omaha.

“I just felt like we absolutely needed to get this win tonight so I just tried to play with as much energy as I could and tried to stay focused throughout the whole game,” Stockman said.

The victory likely locks up an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the Gophers (19-11, 9-10). Fans stormed the court after the win, and coach Richard Pitino made sure after the game each senior got a chance to grab the microphone and say “thank you” to the Williams Arena faithful.

Murphy finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds in the victory, and there will likely be a spot in the rafters waiting for his jersey when his Gophers career officially ends. Murphy will finish second in Big Ten history in rebounding and in the top 10 in Gophers history in scoring.

Murphy and the rest of the Gophers were well aware of what a win over Purdue could do for their NCAA Tournament resume. Murphy said after the game it was the most pressure the team has felt since his sophomore year, when they won 24 games and earned a No. 5 seed in the Big Dance.

“Being able to win a big game and solidify a place wherever we may be in the tournament, I haven’t felt that type of pressure since my sophomore year,” Murphy said. ”It was good to see our guys step up, and the guys haven’t felt that type of pressure ever stepped up.”

Amir Coffey led the Gophers with 32 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 39 minutes in the win. His two free throws with two seconds left sealed the win for the Gophers. Coffey and Murphy combined for 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting as Minnesota built a 37-27 halftime lead.

It was Coffey’s second straight 30-point game, and third this season. He shot 8-of-15 from the field, made three of Minnesota’s four 3-pointers and was 13-of-18 at the free-throw line.

“I think he’s one of the best players in the Big Ten. Made a lot of big shots, big plays today,” Pitino said.

Purdue rallied from a 50-38 deficit to tie the game 54-54. Gabe Kalscheur’s only made shot of the night was a big one, a 3-pointer that gave the Gophers a 60-54 lead with 5:45 left in regulation. Then with Murphy double-teamed, he found a curling Stockman for a dunk in the lane to give Minnesota a 62-55 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Brock Stull also played 22 minutes. He hadn’t played more than 20 minutes since a blowout loss at Michigan State. But Stockman and Stull got extended time with Eric Curry now out for the season with a right foot injury, and Michael Hurt missing Tuesday’s game with a groin injury.

“We needed guys like Matz Stockman and Brock to step up and they did that. They both were unbelievable and that’s what being a part of a team is all about. They showed that,” Pitino said.

The Gophers were in sync all night defensively, largely due to Stockman’s presence inside. The Gophers out-scored Purdue’s bench 13-0, and Carsen Edwards scored 22 points, but shot 7-of-29 from the field to get there. That included 3-of-15 from three-point range.

Ryan Cline kept the Boilermakers in the game with a barrage of three-pointers in the second half, including two straight that got Purdue within 64-61 with 3:06 left. He finished with 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the perimeter.

Purdue got within 71-69 on a Carsen Edwards 3-pointer, but Coffey’s free throws with two seconds left sealed the win.

It was also a memorable night for senior Jarvis Johnson, who has been unable to play the last four years due to a heart condition. He got to suit up for pregame warm-ups, and was introduced as the “sixth man, the heart of the Gophers,” when the game starters were announced.

“I wanted to do something for him. I almost said screw the doctors and put him in at the end but I didn’t do that. I didn’t want to get in trouble,” Pitino said. “But I wanted him to get recognized the right way. He stuck with it, he cares about his degree, he cares about Minnesota. Very appreciative of him.”

Dupree McBrayer said earlier this week he wanted nothing more than to get a win on Senior Night, one that would potentially propel the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament. He played 35 minutes and finished with 10 points. It’s been an emotional ride for McBrayer, who lost his mother to cancer earlier this season.

“It was an important win. I think personally that solidified us to go to the NCAA Tournament,” Pitino said. “To see the joy on their faces with their families there, to see Dupree get emotional, that’s what it’s all about. When you’re a young coach and you’re trying to build, that’s really, really important and very rewarding to see your guys experience that.”

The Gophers finish the regular season at Maryland Friday night before heading to the Big Ten Tournament.