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Without games to write about, Star Tribune writers and editors have been thinking back on the best games they've covered. Ever. Maybe it was for the Star Tribune, maybe it was from high school or college. The only requirement was that it be something they attended as a journalist.

We'll be publishing our memories this week, and we hope you share some of the things you've seen in the comments.

Jerry Zgoda covered the Gophers when they defeated Clemson in double-overtime during the 1997 NCAA men's tournament in San Antonio.

When the rollicking Midwest Regional semifinal ended and the Gophers had outlasted Clemson in two overtimes, Minnesota Gov. (and No. 1 fan) Arne Carlson surveyed the Alamodome and declared, “The third overtime was all ours.”

The governor stopped and asked. “It was three, wasn’t it?”

It only felt that way.

Leading by 15 points before halftime and trailing by six in overtime, the top-seeded Gophers overcame injury and big foul trouble to beat rugged, fourth-seeded Clemson 90-84 in a Sweet Sixteen game that senior center John Thomas called “sheer brutality.”

Two days later, Minnesota beat blue-blood UCLA and reached its first and only Final Four, in Indianapolis, a week later. There they lost to Kentucky to end a 31-4 season the NCAA erased three years later because of an academic-cheating scandal.

To beat Clemson, Gophers star Bobby Jackson showed why he was voted Big Ten Player and Defensive Player of the Year. He played 49 of the 50 minutes, including the final 17 with four fouls after point guard Eric Harris separated his shoulder. His totals: 36 points, nine rebounds, two steals, one turnover. He scored 15 of those points while carrying four fouls. Teammate Sam Jacobson scored 29 points, also a career best.

Afterward, both players rode in a golf cart with coach Clem Haskins to the post-game interview room. Jackson entered carrying two cups of water and an exhausted look.

“I have cramps, I have bumps,” Jackson said that night, before he played 12 NBA seasons. “I’m going to sleep like a baby. Then I’m going to roll over and sleep as hard as a rock.”

"I’ve never played in a game like that, ever,” Jacobson said. “Awesome, absolutely. I know I’m probably going to be watching that about 20 or 30 times in my VCR 10 years from now.”

Twenty-three years later, VCRs are relics and the Gophers accomplishments that season, while remembered, have been officially wiped from NCAA records. It was a season that also included memorable victories at Indiana and Michigan, but nother like that one in San Antonio.

“One of the best college games I’ve ever played in,” Jackson said late in his NBA career. “Maybe the best game I ever played in, period.”



Andrew Krammer, who now covers the Vikings, writes about the night in 2013 when the Gophers men's basketball team shocked No. 1 Indiana.

A maroon-and-gold wave brought the party back to Gophers players after head coach Tubby Smith had tried to clamp down on his basketball team’s postgame celebrations.

I was there for the Minnesota Daily when fans and students stormed the court during the final horn of the Gophers’ 77-73 win against the top-ranked Hoosiers on Feb. 26, 2013, the first time since 1999 that Minnesota had beaten a No. 1 team. Senior forwards Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams — key cogs in the rebound-heavy win — locked arms and jumped in rhythm at midcourt as the Williams Arena crowd mobbed them.

Boards vibrated on the raised court. Security let fans eventually tire themselves out by letting them storm the court. The Tuesday night reminded fans of the program’s better days during what was an otherwise disappointing end to Smith’s tenure as head coach.

For a night, the Gophers played up to their bruising potential. Then a sixth-year senior, Mbakwe shut down Cody Zeller, the Hoosiers’ top scorer who was months away from being the NBA’s fourth overall draft pick. Zeller had nine points and fouled out for just the second time in his Indiana career. Mbakwe finished with a game-high 21 points and 12 rebounds. Minnesota outrebounded Indiana 44-30.

Still, it was still a struggle. The crowd swelled or deflated with the breaking of each second-half tie. Hoosiers star Victor Oladipo’s backcourt mate, Jordan Hulls, hit five threes to keep Indiana within range. Gophers guard Austin Hollins made a critical layup while fouled, with the free throw putting the Gophers ahead for good with 4:39 left.

A final minute slowed by 11 free-throw attempts tested the Barn’s security, and heightened anticipation for the scene that would unfold. That Gophers team’s highs and subsequent lows, led to Smith’s decision to limit the celebrations as best he could.

A viral video had spread earlier that month after the Gophers beat then-No. 20 Wisconsin in overtime and then danced to Ke$ha’s “Die Young” in the locker room. That was followed by a 21-point loss to Iowa, a 26-point loss to Ohio State and a suspension of postgame dancing.

Then came Indiana ... and the rules went out the window for a few minutes.

Rodney Williams celebrated with fans following the victory over Indiana.
Rodney Williams celebrated with fans following the victory over Indiana.

Kyndell Harkness



Timberwolves writer Chris Hine on watching Kentucky (and Karl-Anthony Towns) rally to defeat Notre Dame in the 2015 NCAA men's basketball tournament.

The moment doesn’t seem as monumental now, since the 2014-15 Kentucky men’s basketball team came up short of finishing as the first undefeated champions since Indiana in 1976. But on March 28, 2015, the atmosphere was one of disbelief during an Elite 8 matchup between Notre Dame and the Wildcats in Cleveland.

Nobody had pegged Notre Dame, an 11-point underdog, to be up 59-53 with 6:16 to play.

This Kentucky team, which entered the night 37-0, was a juggernaut, an unbeatable force led in part by current Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. How invincible had they seemed? They beat West Virginia 78-39 — that’s right, they doubled them up — to advance to play Notre Dame.

I was spending my final days as the Notre Dame beat writer at the Chicago Tribune before transitioning to the Blackhawks full time on their Stanley Cup playoff run later that spring. I was laughing to myself on press row as I was writing on deadline at the notion that I could be covering one of the biggest college basketball games ever.

Notre Dame’s calling card was a lethal offense that buried its opponents under waves of threes and layups, a formula that seemed to be working against Kentucky. The Wildcats had to be perfect down the stretch to win.

They nearly were, scoring on six of their final seven possessions. Towns scored five of his 25 points in the final minutes, including the tying bucket with 1:14 to play. Andrew Harrison hit the winning free throws and Notre Dame’s last-gasp shot came up short, losing 68-66.

But Notre Dame left Kentucky scarred.

Wisconsin, another wickedly efficient offensive team, was able to finish off the Wildcats in the Final Four, taking some of the gravity from that comeback. But for those final six minutes, it seemed as if Notre Dame was about to write college basketball history.

Even in covering a Stanley Cup championship, I’ve never felt anything like that.

Kentucky players celebrated after beating Notre Dame.
Kentucky players celebrated after beating Notre Dame.

AP



Joel Rippel, Star Tribune news assistant and Minnesota sports historian, remembers a Gophers-Iowa men's basketball game that went on and on and on in 1982.

As spectators entered the Iowa Field House on Feb. 27, 1982, for the Gophers-Hawkeyes game, there were multiple signs saying, “thanks for the memories.” The signs, which acknowledged what was supposed to be the final game played in the 55-year-old arena, were prophetic for another reason.

The sellout crowd saw the Gophers win 57-55 in three overtimes. The Hawkeyes had a chance to win in the final seconds of regulation and each of the three overtimes before Gophers guard Darryl Mitchell made two free throws with no time on the clock to win the game.

“I always said it was going to be a classic and I guess it was,” Iowa coach Lute Olson said afterward.

The two talented teams — five players who played in the game went on to the NBA — had played in Minneapolis a month earlier, with the Gophers winning 61-56. The Hawkeyes had a 18-game home winning streak heading into the rematch.

The Gophers led by as many as seven in the first half before the Hawkeyes took a 28-23 lead at halftime. The Gophers rallied to take a six-point lead in the second half before the Hawkeyes used a 20-10 run to take a 53-49 lead with two minutes, 58 seconds remaining.

The Gophers tied the score on a field goal by Mitchell and two free throws by John Wiley, who had missed 11 of 14 free throws that season going into the game.

The Hawkeyes held the ball for the final 1:41 to go for the final shot, but Gophers center Randy Breuer blocked Kenny Arnold’s layup with three seconds to go. In the first overtime, the Hawkeyes had the ball for the final 36 seconds before missing a shot at the buzzer. They held the ball for all but 25 seconds in the second overtime, but Gophers forward Zebedee Howell stripped the ball from Bob Hansen as he went up for a shot with five seconds left.

The teams traded turnovers in the final minute of the third overtime before the Hawkeyes missed a shot with eight seconds left. Mitchell grabbed the rebound and hurried to get a 35-foot shot at the buzzer. He was fouled by Mark Gannon and sank both free throws with no time on the clock to silence the crowd.

“For all the emotion, for what was riding on the game, for where the game was played and what the game meant,” Gophers coach Jim Dutcher said, “I’ve never been in a game like this.”

Randy Breuer and Minnesota defeated Iowa at Williams Arena in 1983, setting up a rematch in Iowa City that went for three overtimes.
Randy Breuer and Minnesota defeated Iowa at Williams Arena in 1983, setting up a rematch in Iowa City that went for three overtimes.

Regene Radniecki