MADISON -- The fifth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers took on their rival the Minnesota Gophers in a Border Battle matchup Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center. The first-place Badgers faced a fired-up Minnesota team that had lost two games in a row.
While the Gophers came in with a sub-.500 record in Big Ten play, they still put up quite a fight for their rivals. In the end, the Badgers were able to come away with a 63-53 victory and move one game away from clinching a share of the conference title.
"Certainly [we] lost to a really good team," Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino said. "That's about as good of a team in the country and they do a great job of not beating themselves."
In the first half, the Badgers were led by outstanding performances from Frank Kaminsky and Bronson Koenig, who both found themselves in double figures after the first 20 minutes. Kaminsky was able to score at will inside against Minnesota’s big frontcourt, showing his elite footwork to find openings in the defense. Koenig was able to capitalize from the outside, shooting 50 percent in the half from beyond the arc on his way to 10 points in the period. He also contributed two assists in the half.
The Gophers stayed within striking distance despite 22 points scored between Kaminsky and Koenig alone in the first half. The lead changed three times in the half and the game was tied three separate times as well. While the Gophers stayed close, never letting the Badgers take a lead larger than eight points, Minnesota never had a lead larger than two.
The Gophers got off to a poor in the second half start, turning the ball over on three consecutive possessions to open play. During that stretch, the Badgers were able to extend their lead to 12 points and control the lead throughout the rest of the game. Kaminsky and Koenig continued to score, finishing with 21 and 16, respectively.
"[Kaminsky] is one of the best players in the country," Pitino said. "The guy is a pro. He's a lottery pick."
The Badgers, mostly Josh Gasser, were able to extinguish Minnesota’s leading scorer, Andre Hollins, who came in averaging 15 points per game. The Gophers' offensive cog was held to just two points in 33 minutes of play. Freshman Nate Mason tried to pick up the slack after starting over DeAndre Mathieu, scoring 11 points.
"We try to make guys like [Hollins] work. You have to respect them," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "He's proven over the year that he's a solid player who can score, put up numbers. So we just tried to make him work."
Another highlight for the Badgers was redshirt senior Josh Gasser, who became the 41st Wisconsin player to reach 1,000 career points. The Port Washington, Wis., native also became the second Badger to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 250 assists, joining Michael Finley.
"That's pretty good," Ryan said. "Especially for a guy who got a scholarship because somebody else changed their mind on us. That was a good day."
"Its nice. We got the win," Gasser said. "I know it's cliche, but it's not really something I'm thinking about right now at all. We've got bigger things to worry about."
"In a few months, when my career is over, I can look back on everything and be proud of it, but right now we've got bigger fish to fry."