Just two days after he lost his mother, Tayra McFarlane, to cancer, Minnesota guard Dupree McBrayer fought off tears after he hit the 3-pointer that would ultimately lead to his team’s upset over No. 24 Nebraska.
Minnesota wore patches on their jerseys with TM initials to honor McFarlane. Nebraska wore warm-up shirts that read "RIP Tyra" to show their support for McBrayer and his family, demonstrating an emotional solidarity between the opposing teams.
Minnesota held Nebraska to 38 percent from the field in the second half. Nebraska managed to score 19 points on Minnesota’s 13 turnovers to stay in control until late in the game. After trailing 13 points in the second half to the favored Nebraska team, Minnesota regained momentum, shooting 57 percent in the second half. With less than five minutes to play, McBrayer’s crucial 3-pointer from behind the line cut the Husker’s lead to three points, 71-68. It was McBrayer’s basket, partnered with teammate Amir Coffey’s 30th point of the night, that sparked a 19-7 run for the for the Golden Gophers.
When McBrayer fouled out with 1:17 left in the game, the crowd gave him a supportive applause, fueling the momentum for Minnesota as they finished with an 85-78 victory. McBrayer played for 34 minutes.
The win was an emotional one for the whole team. McBrayer’s teammates surrounded him in a post-game huddle as tears engulfed him, head coach Richard Pitino and many fans in Williams Arena. Nebraska head coach Tim Miles hugged him as the teams shook hands.
“I’m proud of him,” Pitino said, fighting back tears. “To do that when you lose your mom at this age, that’s really, really hard, so I’m proud of him.”
After scoring his game-high of 32 points, Coffey echoed his coach, saying the team played with McBrayer and his mother in the back of their minds the entire night.
“Obviously, the team’s going through a tough time with the loss of Dupree’s mom,” Coffey said. “We just wanted to be there for him tonight, and he told us, ‘Let’s go get this W.’ We just fought for him.”
According to the Star Tribune, McBrayer credited McFarlane, a single mother and correctional officer, for introducing him to basketball.
He took to twitter the day following his mother’s death to share his feelings. Boston Celtics point guard Marcus Smart replied to McBrayer on Twitter, empathizing with the young athlete. Smart had lost his mother to cancer in September.
Noah Basketball aims to make the game of basketball better through shooting improvement, but the birth and success of Noah is centered around the love for the game. Moments like these, although sad, remind us that basketball is not all about wins or statistics. It’s about the ball and court always there when a player needs it. It’s about the opposing teams, like the Cornhuskers, who go out of their way to show respect for players in situations like McBrayer, when the game became more than just a Big 10 matchup. It’s about the community who cries and celebrates with their team and adds to the passion for the game.