Badgers overcome slow start, sweep Border Battle

first_imgJordan Taylor went 11-12 from the charity stripe on his way to a 22-point performance against Minnesota. His performance marked his third 20-point performance of the year, one of which previously came against Minnesota in Minneapolis on Feb. 9.[/media-credit]If it were easy, it wouldn’t be a Big Ten conference game.At least, that is how this season has unfolded for the Wisconsin men’s basketball team. Tuesday night, the No. 14 Badgers (22-8, 11-6 Big Ten) fought their way past a horrid first-half shooting effort en route to a 52-45 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-13, 5-12 Big Ten) at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin shot just 4-for-21 in the first half (19 percent) and entered halftime trailing 23-16.With the win, the Badgers are guaranteed at least a top-four seed in the conference, as well as a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament next weekend in Indianapolis.The Gophers, meanwhile, dropped their sixth straight game, all but eliminating them from NCAA tournament consideration.Following a rousing 63-60 upset victory at No. 9 Ohio State Sunday afternoon, Tuesday night’s game was Wisconsin’s third in six days. Although head coach Bo Ryan denied the presence of fatigue in his players, the Badgers appeared to lack energy in the first half. In addition to the overall poor shooting effort, UW shot just 2-for-10 (20 percent) from 3-point range in the first half.“Minnesota played hard and took certain things away and gave us certain things,” Ryan said. “They gave us some great 3-point looks – that’s happened to us three or four times this year, where you get those looks and you just need to hit 33 percent of them, and you’re shooting pretty well. But when you shoot the percentage that we did – we weren’t getting any putbacks, [or] much inside – they did a good job of taking that away.”Through the game’s first 10 minutes, both teams struggled to build much of a lead. A 3-pointer by point guard Jordan Taylor put the Badgers ahead 11-8 at the 12:34 mark, but Wisconsin then went the remainder of the half without converting another field goal.Minnesota subsequently built an 11-5 run over the next six minutes, culminating in a 19-13 Gophers lead that stayed unchanged for more than three minutes.The game also reached a high level of chippiness early on, as referees Terry Wymer, Ed Hightower and Larry Scirotto called a combined 43 fouls between the two teams. Wisconsin finished 22-for-29 (75.9 percent) from the free throw line, while Minnesota was 21-for-29 (72.4 percent).Both head coaches also drew technical fouls. Ryan’s came with 3:08 remaining in the first half, after no foul was called on a turnover by forward Ryan Evans. One play earlier, a foul had been called on Rob Wilson that resulted in two free throws for Minnesota’s Ralph Sampson III.“They’ve seen me like that in practice, I mean, once in a while. It depends on if I had a bad meal, or not, at lunch,” Ryan quipped when asked about his players’ reaction to the technical. “Boy, you know, if that’s what it takes, coaches would do that all the time.”With the Badgers trailing by seven points at halftime, Taylor answered with a jumper less than two minutes into the second half to bring the Badgers within 23-18. Taylor finished with a game-high 22 points on 4-for-9 shooting, including 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range. He also sunk 11 of his 12 free throw attempts.After the two teams traded baskets over several possessions, the game was tied at 25-25 with 16:04 remaining. No points were scored by either side for nearly four minutes before a Rodney Williams layup put the Gophers up by two. Williams finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, while guard Andre Hollins led Minnesota with 18 points. Hollins shot just 3-for-12 from the floor, though he hit 10-of-11 free throw attempts.While the Kohl Center crowd was subdued for much of the first half – aside from Ryan’s technical – due to the lack of scoring, it was reignited after UW forward Mike Bruesewitz drove through the lane and appeared to sink a tough layup with contact. However, the call was quickly ruled a charge on Bruesewitz. After conferring, the call was changed to a shooting foul on Hollins, sending Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith erupting into argument on the sidelines.“Who knows”? Smith said when asked for the clarification the referees gave him on the call. “To have the ball like that and change the call, are you kidding me? It’s a joke. It really is.”With just under 12 minutes remaining, Smith was called for a technical foul after arguing a no-call by the officials. Taylor sunk both free throws and then nailed a 3-pointer after the Badgers inbounded the ball, building their lead to 32-27 with 11:30 remaining.That once again energized the crowd, as the Badgers never relinquished the lead. Their biggest lead came with the score at 44-34 with 6:49 remaining, though the Gophers did narrow the game to within five points with 18 seconds remaining.However, Minnesota missed three of its final four free throws, allowing Wisconsin to rebound all the way from its dismal first half.“Coach [Ryan] gave us a good speech at halftime, and we wanted to come back and bounce back,” Evans said. “I’m just glad we got the opportunity to go out there and do it again.”last_img

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