Happy Homecoming for Taylor, Badgers at The Barn

UW collapses in regulation, pulls away in overtime with FTs

Cats may have nine lives, but the Badgers were glad to have two on Thursday night in Minneapolis.

Wisconsin (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten) survived the final 7:41 of the second half without scoring, which allowed Minnesota (17-8, 5-7) to erase a 10-point deficit and force overtime. The Badgers regrouped to strike first in the extra session and sank 15-of-17 free throws in the last four minutes to pull out a 68-61 win.

Seeking his first career win at Williams Arena, Bloomington, Minn. native Jordan Taylor led a hot-shooting Badger attack in the opening half with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Wisconsin shot 44% overall and 7-of-11 (63.6%) from behind the arc to take a 32-42 lead into the break.

"Anytime you can win on the road against a tough opponent it's always fun," Taylor said after the game. "I haven't won here, so I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't enjoy that a little bit."

The game could not have started any better for the Badgers. All three Minnesota natives in the UW starting lineup -- Taylor, then Mike Bruesewitz, then Jared Berggren -- connected on 3-pointers to get started. Taylor then beat Minnesota's light full court pressure with a long pass to Bruesewitz, who bounced to a swooping Ryan Evans for one-handed tomahawk jam from the baseline for 13-6 lead not even five minutes into the game.

Yet Minnesota was getting open looks. A few Gopher jumpers and a six-minute UW field goal drought later, Minnesota grabbed its first lead, 16-14, on a Julian Welch 3-pointer.

Then Taylor took over. The senior guard scored the game's next eight points and had 11 on jumpers in a seven-minute stretch. Taylor and Ben Brust both hit buzzer-beating threes during the 18-8 run that finished the half. Taylor finished with a game-high 27 points.

Wisconsin probed the Minnesota defense repeatedly with the dribble, which helped open up the floor for the barrage of jump shots. The Badgers had nine assists in the first half, none of them from Taylor. At the same time, Wisconsin got physical inside, frustrating Gopher star Rodney Williams with several blocked shots.

Aided by a few quick Minnesota turnovers, UW's lead would balloon to 13 points, at 42-29 with 15:46 left in the second half, when Gasser sank yet another 3-pointer. Wisconsin only committed two turnovers in the first half, finishing with nine overall. Minnesota turned the ball over eight times in the second half alone.

In a totally believable turn of events, however, Wisconsin's shooting percentage began to slip. The Badgers moved away from the formula that worked well in the first half and appeared to shrink from the increased pressure the Gophers threw at them.

Meanwhile, Williams snapped a 3:10 scoring drought for Minnesota with a traditional three-point play. He began to show his potential by slipping past UW's tight man coverage to get to the rim. Freshman Andre Hollins found his rhythm as well, scoring nine of the final 15 points in regulation when the Gophers needed it most. Hollins finished with 20 points; Williams added 16.

Following Berggren's basket that extended Wisconsin's lead to 51-41, the Badgers missed their last six shots after Evans was called for a questionable traveling violation after stealing a long pass.

At one point, as the Williams Arena crowd rose to its feet, UW turned the ball over on three straight possessions. History appeared ready to repeat itself in a rivalry that saw Minnesota rip out Wisconsin's heart in the final minute twice in 2009.

Austin Hollins hit two free throws with a minute left to knot the game at 51. Wisconsin missed a 3-pointer at the other end, but Minnesota could not convert on two chances on its last possession.

Blessed with a second chance, the Badgers made the most of it. Taylor locked down on the Gopher guards, forcing several tough shots in an impressive defensive sequence spanning the end of regulation and the start of overtime. With go-to scorers hard to come by, it was Minnesota's turn to wilt when Wisconsin regained the lead on two Gasser free throws.

Taylor's performance nearly overshadowed the first career double-double by Evans. The junior forward stayed aggressive on a bad shooting night and hit a gigantic bucket on the block off his offensive rebound to open the floodgates early in overtime. He finished with 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting to go with 11 rebounds.

The Badgers strung together 14 consecutive made free throws and got a key steal from Berggren to keep the Gophers at bay the rest of overtime.

Wisconsin's 17 points in overtime nearly equaled its embarrassing 19-point output in the second half. This despite hitting just 8-of-28 (28.5%) from the field after halftime.

Minnesota finished with 13 turnovers and only 10 assists on 23 field goals. The Gophers came into the game ranked sixth in the nation in assists-per-made field goal (64.9%).

With the win, UW ran its stellar record away from the Kohl Center to 8-2, including six true road wins.

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For more Wisconsin basketball coverage, follow Phil on Twitter @hoopsmarinara.

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