After losing five of six, the Badgers seemed to have everything back in order. A comfortable win against Illinois and landing the final punch against Michigan State gave fans a certain amount of confidence going into tonight. But after an 81-68 trouncing in the Barn, the Gophers came into this game feeling confident.
And after a 14-7 run to start the game, the Gophers looked like they had a chance to become another team to swaggerjack the Badgers at the Kohl Center. But then? The defense showed up. Minnesota's offensive sets became sloppier, their shots stopped falling (inside the arc anyway), and the Badgers cruised 78-70.
That's not to say Minnesota didn't have some impressive outings. Andre Hollins led the Gophers with 22 points, and his 16 in the second half, thanks to some nifty shooting from deep, helped keep the Badgers from turning this into a blowout. Malik Smith added 14, and the Gophers ended up shooting 60 percent from beyond the arc on the strength of their efforts.
But the Badgers were able to answer the game the Gophers frontcourt put on them in the Barn. The Gophers frountcourt dealt with foul trouble all game. Maurice Walker was unable to follow up his 18 points and nine rebounds, only managing five points and two rebounds. The Badgers were able to take advantage, spending most of the final 30 minutes traveling to the free throw line and finishing 30-for-36 on the night from the free throw line.
Ben Brust had himself a strong game. Coming off a five-point, 1-for-8 from three-point land game where he missed the front end of a key one-and-one against Michigan State? Brust responded with 20 points, four rebounds and four of the Badgers six three-pointers. Nigel Hayes continued his positive momentum, adding four rebounds, two steals, and two blocks (and 5-of-6 shooting from the line) to his fourth consecutive game in double figures with 15 points.
Frank Kaminsky also had himself a good game with 17 points (a perfect 9-for-9 at the free throw line) and six rebounds. Sam Dekker also ended the game in double figures, adding ten points and 7 rebounds.
This win puts the Badgers at 20-5, and 7-5 in the Big Ten going into Sundays all-important tilt with Michigan. The Badgers currently sit in fourth place in the Big Ten. If they're able to maintain their standing, it would be their 13th consecutive season with such a finish, tying them with Purdue for the Big Ten record.