Kevin McHale's dunk with 37 seconds left gave Minnesota the points it needed to hold off slumping Louisville yesterday, 72-71.
McHale, a 6-foot-11 forward, playing in the shadow of his celebrated team-mate, Mychal Thompson, scored a season-high 21 points and collected nine rebounds as the streaking Gophers won their eighth in a row and 12th of the 13.
Louisville, which has been on the road 10 straight days, lost its third in a row and dropped to 16.6. Minnesota is 16.7.
In addition to his offensive effort, McHale played man-to-man defense against Louisville's dynamic 6-4 leaper, Darrell Griffith scored 21 points, but McHale kept him outside and forced him to take long jump shots.
Minnesota had an overwhelming height advantage, but Louisville countered with quickness and outrebounded the Gophers, 35-24.
A folow shot by Larry Williams gave the Cardinals a 68-63 lead with 5:15 left, but they seemed to run out of gas right there.
Minnesota went to a pressure defense that Louisville was unable to handle. Louisville turned over the ball five times on its last eight possessions and, after Williams' basket , didn't core again until Griffith made a free throw with 32 seconds remaining. Minneaota had run off nine straight points by then, and was on top, 72-68.
Minnesota Coach Jim Dutcher brought Bill Harrson off the bench and the junior guard keyed that late surge by coming up with two keys steals and five of Minnesota's last seven points.
James Jackson started Minnesota's nine-point run with a 15-footer from the side to cut Louisville's lead to three points. Then, on perhaps the biggest play of the game. Thompson drew a charging foul on Williams' fifth personal foul.
Harmon came back a minute later with back-to-back baskets after Minnesota steals and the Gophers took a 69-68 lead with 2:30 to play. Then, after Louisville turned over the ball again, Minnesota went into a delay game for more than a minute before Jackson lost the ball to Wilson.
Louisville tried to feed Griffith with a lcb pass for a dunk with 1:08 left, but Jackson broke it up. Thompson picked up the loose ball and passed to Harrmon, who was fouled.
He made only one of his free throws, to make the score 70-68, but McHale rebounded the second attempt and 15 seconds later dunked in the winning points.
After Griffith's free throw and a Minnesota miss, Wilson scored the game's final points with two seconds left to account for the margin of victory.
"We just turned the ball over too many times in crucial situations," Louisville Coach Denny Crum said. "But I thought we played pretty well. We've played foul straight games on the road and everybody but one kid has had the flu in the last week. We're awfully tired.
Minnesota, which played an afternoon game Saturday was playing tired, too, and Harmon was Dutcher's only substitute.
Thompson, who played 40 minutes again yesterday. He had 16 points in the first half, but only four in the second.
"He was tired, but I had to have him in the game," Dutcher said.
In the first half, Thompson was moving much quicker and whenever Louisville tried to double-or triple-team him, he would pass the ball back outside to McHale who had 17 first half points.
In the second half, Louisville packed inside and wouldn't let Thompson get the ball.
"That's how you stop him," said Crum.