MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- No matter how many times Minnesota tried to give the game away, Arkansas-Little Rock just could not take advantage.
Rick Rickert scored 25 points and Ben Johnson added 14 as 25th-ranked Minnesota survived frantic last-second shots in regulation and overtime before hanging on to defeat Arkansas-Little Rock, 86-84.
Maurice Hargrow chipped in 13 and Jerry Holman and Michael Bauer had 11 apiece for Minnesota (5-1), which fell apart at the free-throw line down the stretch. The Golden Gophers missed 14 of their 36 free throws in the contest.
"The free-throw shooting is a rhythm thing," Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. "The important thing is to get the defensive stops after missing. The more you dwell on it, the more the kids lose confidence."
Jibrahn Ike led Arkansas-Little Rock (4-3) with 20 points but fouled out in the waning moments of regulation.
The Trojans trailed, 84-82, following a 3-pointer by Nick Zachery with 90 seconds left but Zachery missed a long jumper 36 seconds later and Bauer hit two free throws to push the lead to four points.
A jumper by Columbus Willis drew Arkansas-Little Rock within 86-84 with 37 seconds to go and Hargrow missed two free throws. Willis missed a jumper but Burleson missed two free throws with six seconds to go.
Zachery grabbed the rebound and tried to go coast-to-coast but was hammered at the other end. No call was made and the Trojans were unable to convert the rebound into the tying basket.
"I'm proud of our guys and how hard they played," Arkansas-Little Rock coach Porter Moser said. "They came in here to win and they played as hard as a coach could hope for."
Minnesota led 71-68 following a 3-pointer by Rickert with 4:36 left in regulation. The teams traded misses but Ike, who played his high school basketball in Minneapolis, buried a 3-pointer with 3:15 to go that knotted the contest.
Ike picked up his fifth foul with 1:58 left in the second half and Hargrow made a free throw to put Minnesota back on top. Holman had a sunk off an offensive rebound with 55 seconds remaining to push the Golden Gophers' lead to 74-71.
Zachery hit a 3-pointer out of a timeout but Mark Green found Burleson for a layup with 25 seconds left. Arkansas-Little Rock called timeout and Willis had a layup with eight sconds to go to tie the game.
With a chance for the last shot, Minnesota turned the ball over and survived a miss by Jake Yancey at the buzzer.
"We are very lucky to have gotten another win in a close ballgame," Hargrow said. "This team is very young and still has a lot to learn. I'm seeing great signs early from this team, and winning these close ones build for the rest of the season."
Minnesota never trailed in overtime and was ahead 84-79 following a 3-pointer by Hargrow with 1:55 left. But Zachery countered with his 3-pointer for the Trojans 25 seconds later.
Minnesota led 33-22 with 8:59 left but Arkansas-Little Rock took the lead with a 15-3 run. Ike had seven points and Yancey four in the spurt.
The Trojans attempted just one free throw over the final 25 minutes. The Golden Gophers, who improved to 4-0 all-time against the Sun Belt Conference, made 11-of-19 over the same span.
Rickert scored his 500th career point and reached the 20-point plateau for the eighth time in his career - Minnesota is 8-0 in those contests.
"We tried to give him a lot of looks," Moser said. "We mixed it up with different ways of defending him but he got to the foul line 12 times. Great players get to the line. He does a lot of great things for them."