NEW YORK — Minnesota coach Richard Pitino never saw anything like it.
Nor had Alabama coach Avery Johnson.
“That was one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever been a part of,” Jordan Murphy said after he scored 19 points and and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead No. 14 Minnesota to an 89-84 victory over No. 25 Alabama, which finished the game with just three players, in the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic on Saturday.
Nate Mason scored 20 points to lead Minnesota (7-0) while Isaiah Washington added 14 and Amir Coffey finished with 12.
“For 27 minutes we played really good basketball,” Pitino said. “For 27 minutes we were a really, really good team.”
Freshman Collin Sexton had 40 points for the Crimson Tide while Riley Norris had 13 and Galin Smith added 10.
“We didn’t give up,” Johnson said. “There was no quit in our team.”
Only the third ever matchup between the Southeastern Conference and Big 10 programs was marred by a near brawl involving Minnesota’s Dupree McBrayer and Alabama’s Dazon Ingram in front of the Crimson Tide bench 6:21 into the second half. Just 27 seconds earlier, Mason and Sexton were each assessed technical fouls for talking to each other, and the Golden Gophers senior guard was ejected.
“Obviously, insanity ensued,” Pitino said.
During the fracas, Alabama players Donta Hall, Alex Reese, Daniel Giddens, Avery Johnson Jr. and Herbert Jones came off the bench and were ejected. Ingram, who had four fouls at the time of the scuffle, fouled out.
“By rule, whenever a potential situation occurs on the court, no player may leave the bench area. If they do leave the bench area and don’t participate in the altercation that’s going on then they are ejected from this contest and there’s no further penalty, which is what happened,” the officials told a pool reporter. “They all came onto the court. We went to the monitor and reviewed all of that. Based on the views that were given us it showed all of their players on the bench, came off the bench onto the court. The views we were given we didn’t see anyone from the Minnesota bench come onto the floor.”
Nearly 3 minutes after the McBrayer-Ingram incident, Alabama lost John Petty to an ankle injury, according to Johnson, and the Crimson Tide ended the game playing just three players.
Leading by 14 with 10:17 left, the Golden Gophers saw their lead trimmed to 83-80 on Sexton’s layup. Alabama had a chance to cut the deficit to one — or tie — after Sexton grabbed a rebound of a miss by Coffey, but he missed a mid-range right side jumper.
Coffey responded with a layup and foul to push the lead to 86-80, only to see Smith’s dunk bring the Crimson Tide within four. McBrayer knocked down two free throws with 18 seconds remaining and Michael Hurt’s free throw increased Minnesota’s lead to 89-83, before Sexton made two free throws with 1 second remaining.
“We fought to the very end,” Johnson said. “There was no surrender in our team. That’s the bright spot in today’s game.”