Dupree McBrayer’s senior season has been anything but easy. What he’s endured off the court would be enough for some to step away from basketball, at least for some time.

Earlier this season, McBrayer lost his mother after a battle with cancer. The Minnesota community supported its basketball star and McBrayer dedicated the rest of the season to playing in her honor.

“She would want me to keep fighting,” McBrayer told the Star Tribune. And fight McBrayer has.

In Thursday’s B1G Tournament Round 2 matchup against Penn State, McBrayer was a key piece for the Gophers, scoring 18 points on six-of-11 shooting and hitting two three-pointers. He helped Minnesota get a 77-72 win over Penn State in overtime, advancing to the quarterfinal round where the Gophers will play Purdue.

After the game, head coach Richard Pitino praised his senior leader for everything he’s done this season.

“What’s been awesome about Dupree is he goes through losing his mother. He’s been appreciative of everything, and then t see just kind of the way that he was maturely able to move on, like I wouldn’t be able to do that in college, and honor his mother the right way,” Pitino said, according to GopherHole.com. “I mean, you know she’s watching, she’s proud of him.

“I look at him on Senior Night and he’s in front of all of our fans, and he’s enthusiastic, he’s not afraid to show it. Even tonight, he turned to me and said, ‘you need to relax.’ And I looked at him and was like ‘you relax.’ But he was right, I needed to relax. But that’s confidence. And when we have a relationship like that, it’s very, very strong. He’s a special kid.”

McBrayer has helped lead the Gophers to a 20-12 record this season, which includes wins over Washington, Purdue, Iowa and Wisconsin. He’s averaging 9.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in his final season in Minneapolis.

But that statistics really don’t matter. What Minnesota has benefitted most from Dupree is his leadership and confidence, on and off the floor.

Even under the most difficult circumstances, McBrayer has been one of the strongest players on the team.