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Minnesota shakes off slow start to force overtime, defeat Penn State in Big Ten tournament

Marcus Fuller, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Basketball

CHICAGO -- Amir Coffey was isolated at the top of the key for what was supposed to be the last shot of the first half Thursday, but the ball was stolen away and dunked by Penn State's Josh Reaves with seconds still left on the clock.

Coffey dropped his head and walked off the court frustrated to be down four points at halftime in the Gophers' opening game in the Big Ten tournament at the United Center.

The talented and versatile 6-foot-8 junior guard was arguably the best player in the Big Ten the last two weeks averaging 28 points in his final three regular season games. That boosted the Gophers' NCAA Tournament hopes to receiving an at-large bid even with an early exit in Chicago.

As much as his outstanding play took his team to another level, Coffey's struggles for most of the game Thursday made it a long night, but his 22 points and play in overtime led the Gophers to the 77-72 win against the Nittany Lions.

Coffey, who had just two points on 1-for-6 shooting in the first half, finished with 12 points in overtime for the seventh-seeded Gophers (20-12), who advanced to play No. 2 seed Purdue on Friday night.

To open overtime, Coffey hammered a dunk in transition off a steal for the early lead, also waking up something that his team desperately needed.

 

The Nittany Lions (14-18) showed why they entered the game with seven wins in the last 10 games by cutting it to 75-72 on a Myreon Jones' 3-pointer with four seconds left, but Coffey hit two more free throws to seal Minnesota's third win in the last four games.

McBrayer had 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting. Coffey finished 6-for-17 from the field, but he went 10-for-11 from the foul line in the game, including 6-for-7 in the extra period.

In the last five minutes of regulation, Minnesota scored eight straight points to make it interesting. Back-to-back buckets by Coffey were highlighted by a two-handed dunk on the break to cut it to 59-57 just under three minutes left in the second half.

Jordan Murphy, who finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds, powered in a layup with 1:10 remaining to tie it at 59 for an 8-0 run by the Gophers. Lamar Stevens and Dupree McBrayer traded jumpers to keep the score tied at 61.

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