Gophers Move on to Elite 8 After 2-OT Thriller vs Clemson

16 Mar 1997: Guard Bobby Jackson of the Minnesota Golden Gophers dribbles the ball down the court during a playoff game against the Clemson Tigers at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri. Minnesota won the game 90-84. Mandatory Credit: Allsport /Allsport

The Gophers continued their incredible 1996-1997 season on Friday vs the Clemson Tigers, in a packed Alamo Dome. Fans got 10 extra minutes of gameplay, than what they bargained for, on a night that I’m sure will go down in history (and then be erased from it).

It didn’t look that way, to start. The Gophers completely dominated the first 15 minutes of this Sweet-16 matchup and it looked like this one might get away early. They couldn’t miss. Midway through the half, Bobby Jackson, Sam Jacobson and Co. were shooting 77% from the field…

The Gophers cooled off at the end of the 2nd half though, and Clemson caught fire, leading to a rabid comeback. In no-time, a lead that stood strong at around 15 points for most of the first, was down to just 6 points when the teams entered the locker room.

The second half didn’t start off much better. Bobby Jackson had gone cold and that’s part of what drove the comeback for Clemson. Just a couple minutes into the second, Bobby had the ball at the right-side wing and, during live play, turned to the ref and said something that was aggregious enough for him to be T’d up on the spot.

Clem Haskins immediately pulled him out and had to talk him down. As Bobby grabbed a warmup and tried to relax, Sam Jacobson reminded the country how he plans on playing in the NBA, too.

With a man in his face and Bobby venting, Sam raised up and drilled this 3-pointer before going back and playing POST defense that single-handedly caused a turnover. Sam does it all… and the Gophers needed it in this moment.

From that point forward… this game was a heavyweight bout. Both teams through haymakers back and forth, showing us what great college basketball looks like. I have a feeling, future college basketball just won’t be the same.

Like many of these March Madness games do, this Sweet 16 street fight came down to clutch free throws… and the Sophomore Quincy Lewis, who I think has a very real future in local TV broadcasting, wasn’t up to the challenge.

He needed both free throws to ice the game and send Minnesota to the Elite 8. He needed one to secure a 3-point lead. Instead, he missed both and that led to this game-tying layup, which sent the game to its first OT. Clem Haskins took blame for the bad transition defense, saying he was too worried about the 3 that would have won it for the Tigers.

“We didn’t want to let them beat us with a three, and we told them to get back on defense,” he said. “I think that was a case of overcoaching, because we got too concerned with the three that we let them get an easy basket.” — Clem Haskins

The Baltimore Sun – March 21, 1997

The first OT felt like the Gophers trying to hang on and Rick Barnes was frustrated after the game, because Clemson didn’t take advantage (quote below) I’m sure he felt like there was a chance for Clemson to go for the jugular…

They took an early 4-point lead but the Gophers were able to hold it together and actually had a chance to win at the buzzer… but Bobby Jackson clanked a mid-range jumper (a shot I think might disappear in 20 years) that would’ve kept us from the 2nd overtime… which was all gophers.

With Minnesota up 4 of their own points and 1:40 left on the clock, Bobby crossed half-court… where the ball would stay until it was ticking under :40. It was an incredibly possession, that essentially ended the game. Jackson rose up and buried a 15-footer to put the maroon and gold up 6. Even more clutch than his make though, was Courtney James’ offensive rebound to extend the possession.

Jackson would finish with 36 points and 9 rebounds. Jacobson helped out with 29 of his own. The rest of the team scored 25 combined. This is nothing new from the Gophers, though. Batman Bobby and Robin Sam have been stopping opponents in their tracks all season.

That’s why Jackson was named Big Ten Player of the Year.

When it was all said and done, this was one of the better college basketball games I’ve seen played and the coaches agree… though Clemson coach Rick Barnes didn’t want to talk about that postgame.

“Wow — that’s my statement for the game,” said Minnesota coach Clem Haskins. “I’ve been a part of a lot of games — over 2,000 to be exact as a player and a coach — and this one ranks right up there with all of them. These guys refused to die. They refused to quit.” — Clem Haskins

The Baltimore Sun – March 21, 1997

“We all know it was a great game, but right now everyone on our team feels very disappointed. We did a great job to get the game into overtime, but we didn’t do a great job executing in the first overtime.” — Rick Barnes

The Baltimore Sun – March 21, 1997

Now, the Gophers look to the Elite 8, where UCLA and a chance at the Final 4, awaits.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

We replayed this game, from the below YouTube video, as a large group on Twitter today. Ryan James of (247 Sports) coordinated the effort. I believe his plan is to do the same thing with the UCLA game, next weekend. Follow him on Twitter, to keep updated on that viewing party.

Here is the full game from the YouTube channel we watched on:

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