Gophers challenge but fall 81-79 to Nebraska in overtime
Minnesota remains winless in Big Ten conference play
MINNEAPOLIS — The Gophers men’s basketball team really needed a Big Ten win and one of the most unlikely scoring sources helped make that seem possible in a massive moment Saturday at Williams Arena.
Taurus Samuels — who hadn’t scored in three of the previous four games — hit a corner 3-pointer with four seconds left to tie Nebraska, 67-67. The transfer from Dartmouth uncorked a fist pump from the block M at halfcourt. After Sam Griesel’s last-second heave was off the mark, the game went to overtime.
Jamison Battle —whom the Gophers expect to hit big shots — tied the game again with a trey with 1:17 left in the overtime, but Nebraska continued to win in the post and eked out a 81-79 win at The Barn.
Nebraska (8-7, 1-3) was a three-point road favorite and used a 48-32 advantage in points in the paint, including Juwan Gary’s outback with 55 seconds left, to help seal Minnesota’s defeat.
The Gophers and Cornhuskers tied for last place in the Big Ten last season, but Minnesota (6-7, 0-3 Big Ten) has no company this season. They remain winless in conference games to start this season.
The back-and-forth game provided entertainment as Minnesota wore 1970s throwback jerseys for Alumni Day. The Gophers, which had their best crowd of the season, introduced more than 40 former players at halftime after having approximately 25 for the event last season.
Battle finished with 20 points. Dawson Garcia fouled out with 1:39 left in overtime after producing 19 points and 15 rebounds. Ta’Lon Cooper and Josh Ola-Joseph each had a dozen points.
After committing a season-high 20 turnovers in a 63-60 loss to No. 14 Wisconsin on Tuesday, Minnesota had only one through the opening 20 minutes. Minnesota had six turnovers in the second half, with two costly ones from Cooper in the last five minutes and both led to Derrick Walker buckets for a 65-61 lead. Walker led all scorers with 22 points.
The giveaways were part of a four-minute scoring drought that Battle ended by hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut Nebraska’s lead to 65-64.
After Garcia picked up his third foul with three minutes in the second half, Nebraska went on a 10-0 run to take a 52-47 lead before Garcia was brought back in.
Minnesota answered with a 14-4 run of its own to take a 61-58 lead with six minutes left. True freshmen Jaden Henley fed Ola-Joseph for easy baskets at the rim during the run.
The Gophers took a 39-33 lead at the half after making 50% of their 3-pointers (6 for 12), with Garcia and Battle making two apiece. Minnesota cooled off in the second half, making only 4 of 15 from deep.
Minnesota had good ball movement to start Saturday, making the extra pass to lead to great looks, including an inside feed from Pharrel Payne to Garcia for a layup and swinging the ball around the arc for an open look for Battle.
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