In a season filled with letdowns — and, frankly, a few meltdowns — for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, senior Nate Mason was finally able to let the adversity of a tough season slide off his shoulders and let loose a smile for the Williams Arena fans.
His highly-efficient 33 points, six assists and three steals carried the Gophers to an 86-82 Senior Night win over the Iowa Hawkeyes, snapping a nine-game losing streak overall and a five-game skid at home.
Mason, who was one point from matching a career high, went over 1,700 points for his career with his fourth-ever 30-point performance. He scored 12 points and tallied a pair of assists to spark a 22-2 Minnesota run to begin the game following a emotional pre-game ceremony honoring the team’s three seniors.
“Emotions were really high, especially before [the game] with the senior introductions,” said Mason. “We wanted to come out and do everything possible to get this win.”
It was Minnesota’s first win since Jan. 15 at Penn State and their first victory at Williams Arena since Jan. 3, the last time they had center Reggie Lynch in the lineup prior to his suspension.
But the W didn’t come without a few scares.
Iowa began the climb back in the first half, holding the Gophers scoreless for over seven minutes to whittle the deficit down to single digits before eventually trailing 31-19 at halftime.
Then the Hawkeyes (12-18, 3-14) exploded in the second half with 63 points thanks to 61 percent shooting. Isaiah Moss scored 26 points in the second half, finished with a career-high 32 and hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left to trim the Minnesota lead to 84-82, but Davonte Fitzgerald’s two free throws iced the victory with two seconds remaining.
After the final buzzer, Mason, along with fellow seniors Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou, took a microphone and thanked the fans. Then Mason dropped to his knees and kissed the Williams Arena floor, where fans cheered him for four seasons.
He ranks among the top 10 Gophers all-time in most historical categories.
“His numbers, you look at them, from the points to the assists, what he’s done here over the course of four years, a guy who was a three-star player,” said Pitino. “He’s such a model of consistency, Nate. Every day he just came and worked. There wasn’t a lot of fluff and B.S. to it. It’s just work, and he always did that, so it’s great.”
Konate also had a quality sendoff with a season-high 10 rebounds. He fouled out late in the game and was serenaded with chants of ‘B-K’ by the Gophers student section.
“Honestly I cannot describe that feeling,” said Konate, the Mali native. “It’s amazing.”
Stats to Think About
- Iowa had eight turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game — only four from that point on.
- Dupree McBrayer played through pain(stress reaction) to score 16 points, including a rim-rattling dunk in transition in the second half. It was the most he’s scored since Minnesota’s last win, when he had 24 against Penn State.
- The Gophers tied for their second-most 3-pointers attempted this season with 25, making nine.
The regular season ends on Feb. 25 as the Gophers visit Purdue, a team that defeated them by 34 at Williams Arena back on Jan. 13.