SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — With both Oklahoma State and Minnesota limping into Saturday night’s matchup after back-to-back home losses, Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford knew his team would be in for a battle.
It took the Cowboys the full 40 minutes on Saturday night to hold back the Gophers for a 62-60 win in a neutral-site game at the Sanford Pentagon.
“Both teams needed the game,” Ford said. “Both teams, I thought, played hard and played with a sense of urgency.”
Jeffrey Carroll scored nine of his team-leading 12 points in the second half, and Chris Olivier added 10 points — all in the first half — for the Cowboys (6-3). As typical, Oklahoma State spread the ball around to eke out a victory.
“We are the definition of team,” Ford said. “We have no superstars.”
Oklahoma State built a nine-point lead in the second half, but the Gophers fought to within two several times.
Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino said he thought the Gophers (5-5) were getting good looks, but the ball was just not going in the basket. He praised his squad’s defensive effort.
“They made one more play than we did,” Pitino said. “But I was proud of our guys. We compete like that, we’re going to win our share of games.”
Nate Mason led the Gophers with 14 points. Jordan Murphy, last week’s Big Ten Conference freshman of the week, notched his third double-double in four games with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
“In the second half, they kind of threw a punch there,” Murphy said. “I think we did a good job of taking that punch and a good job of coming back from that punch.”
Saturday night’s game marked the sixth meeting between Minnesota and Oklahoma State, and the series is now tied 3-3. In the previous meeting on Dec. 15, 1986, Oklahoma State topped Minnesota 77-66 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Jeff Newberry, the Cowboys’ top scorer on the season with 13 points per game, returned to action wearing a protective face mask and saw just 11 minutes of action. He scored 2 points and grabbed 3 rebounds.
Ford said injuries have forced Oklahoma State to redefine some players’ roles, and the team even flashed a rare zone defense during the game.
“That’s something we don’t ever play,” he said. “And our guys were intent to be able to do that on the fly. We have it available, but I bet we haven’t played five minutes of it in eight games.”
BACK AND FORTH
Minnesota managed to hang with Oklahoma State during the game’s first 10 minutes despite shooting just 18 percent from the field. The Gophers eventually found their touch to twice lead by nine, but the Cowboys embarked on a 10-point run over the half’s final five minutes and appeared poised to escape to the locker room with a 1-point edge.
But Minnesota used the half’s final four seconds to feed Ahmad Gilbert for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from a couple yards behind the arc to give the Gophers a 30-28 halftime lead.
The Gophers return home to Williams Arena to host Chicago State on Wednesday night.
The Cowboys travel home to Stillwater to take on Longwood on Tuesday night.