Though it didn’t last long enough to constitute a Cinderella run, the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ NCAA Tournament journey ended Saturday night in a 70-50 loss to the Michigan State Spartans — a loss that will be tied closely to injuries.
Jordan Murphy left the game after three minutes, succumbing to back spasms that had bothered him since Thursday. The durable senior was forced to watch from the sideline as Minnesota fell behind by as many as 20 points in the first half and couldn’t recover. He reentered the game for 10 seconds in the closing moments and received chants of “Jor-dan Mur-phy” as he left the court.
Murphy concluded his career second in program scoring, first in program rebound and second in Big Ten rebounding. In the locker room he reflected on his injury, his career and his final time leaving the floor.
“I didn’t think it was going to be as emotional as it was,” he said. “I think what really got me was probably the crowd. When they started chanting my name and stuff like that — it’s tough. Obviously the last game’s always going to be tough. Only one team really gets out of this tournament really happy. I’m appreciative of these fans all four years.”
Murphy wasn’t the only senior to cap his career. Dupree McBrayer played his final game as Gopher, as well, but was held scoreless. He became a 1,000-point scorer in 2018-19, playing through the death of his mother, Tayra, early in the season.
While the Gophers were missing big men Eric Curry, Matz Stockman and Murphy, McBrayer insisted that the shouldn’t dwell on what could have been.
“You can control what you can control,” he said, “which is energy and effort. Them going down, it does play a factor, but you can’t play the what-if game.”
Not only were the Gophers banged up, but several of their scorers struggled to find their rhythm. After a 24-point outburst in the Gophers’ 86-76 first-round win over Louisville, Gabe Kalscheur was held to two points against the Spartans and got into foul trouble that kept him on the bench for several stretches.
Altogether, though, it was a scintillating first year for the DeLaSalle product, who began looking ahead to 2019-20.
Check back at ZoneCoverage.com in the coming days for a look at what the future holds for the Golden Gophers.