Chicago — Minnesota came into the Big Ten Tournament looking to secure a brighter postseason future after an inconsistent regular season.
With a trip to the conference semifinals, things are looking good Even better, the Gophers knocked off one of the favorites to get there.
Jordan Murphy scored 27 points, Amir Coffey added 21 points and Minnesota beat No. 13 Purdue 75-73 on Friday night to advance to the semifinals.
Murphy drove for a go-ahead three-point play and hit two free throws in the closing minutes, and the Gophers (21-12) beat the Boilermakers (23-9) for the second time in 10 days when Carsen Edwards missed a 3 as time expired.
Murphy finished three points shy of his season high. He also had eight rebounds.
Coffey made 7 of 13 shots. Daniel Oturu added 13 points and 10 rebounds, helping Minnesota advance to the semifinals for the second time in three years. The Gophers will face No. 10 Michigan on Saturday.
“We’ve just been weird,” coach Richard Pitino said. “We haven’t gone on these huge runs of wins. We’ve kind of like gone on some losing streaks and sneaked out a big win. We’ve got some unassuming guys.”
They were easy to overlook after an up-and-down regular season. But wins like this might open some eyes.
“They’re not a beat-your-chest type of group,” Pitino said. “I think it’s just a matter of winning games. … Our focus is not on attention. It’s on getting rest right now and seeing who we play next.”
Matt Haarms scored 16 points for Purdue. Ryan Cline added 14 points and eight assists. But after winning 17 of 20 to surge to a share of their second conference regular-season championship in three years, the Boilermakers never really found their rhythm.
Purdue missed its share of open jumpers and made just 6 of 24 3-pointers, with Edwards missing seven of eight from beyond the arc. The Big Ten’s leading scorer, he finished with 11 points on 4-of-17 shooting.
“It’s not like I was uncomfortable or as a team we were uncomfortable,” Edwards said. “We took shots we normally take. I don’t think they made us take shots we’re not used to taking.”
Wisconsin 66, Nebraska 62: With every clutch play by Nate Reuvers and company, Wisconsin showed it’s much more than just Ethan Happ.
Reuvers scored 14 points, D’Mitrik Trice hit a big 3-pointer and the 19th-ranked Badgers advanced to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
Khalil Iverson also scored 14 points as the Badgers (23-9) won for the sixth time in seven games despite a shaky performance by their leading scorer and rebounder. The 6-foot-10 Happ, who was averaging 17.8 points and 10.4 rebounds coming into the tourney, had a season-low four points and committed seven of his team’s 17 turnovers.
“I didn’t play well, obviously,” Happ said. “There was definitely credit to Nebraska.”
Reuvers, Iverson, Aleem Ford and Brad Davison stepped up to help make up for Happ’s tough day. Ford and Davison each had 11 points.
“There’s been a lot of games where he’s carried us and today we kind of had to carry him,” Davison said. “That won’t happen two games in a row, so we’re excited for him and for our team coming back tomorrow.”
Next up for the Badgers is No. 6 Michigan State on Saturday. The top-seeded Spartans advanced with a 77-70 victory over Ohio State.
Nebraska (18-16) fell just short in its bid for a third win in three days. The Cornhuskers had a six-man rotation because of injuries and backup guard Nana Akenten’s suspension, and it looked as if their lack of depth caught up to them in the final moments.
Glynn Watson Jr. scored 23 points for Nebraska, and James Palmer Jr. finished with 15 on 6-for-21 shooting. Isaiah Roby scored 13.
“We fought to the end. That’s basically it,” Watson said. “The guys all fought for each other and stuck together no matter what.”
Watson, Palmer and Roby each played the entire game. Watson and Palmer played every minute of the Cornhuskers’ stay in the conference tourney.
“I’m proud of this group beyond belief,” coach Tim Miles said.
Nebraska was down just 57-55 when Trice connected from long range with 58 seconds left. After Watson missed a 3 on the other end, Davison made two free throws to make it 62-55 with 39 seconds remaining.
Davison made two more foul shots and Trice also hit two from the line to help Wisconsin close out the win. The Badgers made 11 of 12 free throws for the game, while the Cornhuskers went 6 for 8.
“We had a lot of guys come in and contribute,” Iverson said.
Nebraska trailed by as many as 13, but got back into the game with a 13-2 run spanning halftime. Watson closed the first half with eight straight points on two 3s and a driving layup, and Roby’s 3 trimmed Wisconsin’s lead to 36-34 with 17:58 remaining.
After the Cornhuskers went in front for the first time on Palmer’s layup with 10:18 left, Reuvers got the lead back for the Badgers when he banked in a 3 from the top of the key. The 6-foot-11 Reuvers grinned as ran back down the court to play defense.