Sean Sutherlin drew a crucial offensive foul on Ron Harper Jr. and Payton Willis made two key foul shots with 2.8 seconds left as short-handed Minnesota defeated Rutgers 68-65 at Minneapolis on Saturday.
Willis scored 32 points for Minnesota (11-5, 2-5 Big Ten), which was without three of its top four scorers. Geo Baker led Rutgers (11-7, 5-3) with 25 points.
Baker missed a 3-point attempt with nine seconds remaining and the Scarlet Knights trailing 66-65, but Rutgers' Dean Reiber tied up Minnesota's Charlie Daniels on the rebound, and the possession arrow favored the Scarlet Knights.
Sutherlin was then able to draw the charge on Harper with four seconds left. Harper, who scored 12 points, was trying to drive the left baseline. A desperation heave by Harper at the buzzer fell short after Willis' free throws.
Paul Mulcahy had nine assists for Rutgers. Luke Loewe added 19 points and Treyton Thompson had 10 for the Gophers. Willis, Loewe and Thompson all played 40 minutes.
Minnesota, which had its previous game against Penn State postponed because of a lack of available scholarship players, was without three of its top four scorers because of injury, COVID-19 or unspecified illness. Jamison Battle (18.0 points), E.J. Stephens (12.0) and Eric Curry (8.7) sat out.
Baker's 3-pointer with 7:11 to go broke a 57-all tie, before Loewe barely beat the shot clock with a jumper in the lane on the next possession to cut the Gophers' deficit to one at 60-59.
Thompson then dunked off a pass from Daniels, and Willis drained a 3-pointer with 4:29 left to put the hosts ahead 64-60.
After multiple scoreless possessions, Mulcahy banked in a turnaround jumper in the lane. Loewe answered with a jumper, but Baker's 3-pointer cut Minnesota's lead to 66-65 with 35 seconds to go.
The depleted Gophers came out hot. Willis scored five points and assisted on Thompson's dunk after Willis stole the ball from Harper, giving Minnesota a quick 7-0 advantage and causing Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell to call a timeout.
Although, Rutgers scored the next five points, Minnesota replied with a 10-0 run capped by a trey by Luke Loewe for a quick 17-5 lead. An extended 19-2 run by the Scarlet Knights gave them a 24-19 lead with 6:48 to go in the half on a basket by Harper. The Gophers led 31-30 at halftime.
--Field Level Media