No. 17 Wisconsin escaped Williams Arena with a 78-76 overtime win over Minnesota on Saturday.
The Badgers (16-3, 5-1) edged out the Golden Gophers (15-5, 3-4) behind 20-point performances from Ethan Happ, who scored a career-high 28 points, and Nigel Hayes, who added 21.
Happ also hauled in 12 rebounds en route to his seventh double-double of the season and scored 23 of his game-high 28 points in the second half.
Minnesota was paced by Amir Coffey, who scored 19, and Akeem Springs, who chipped in 16.
Wisconsin was able to defy the odds, shooting 50 percent from the three-point line (7-of-14) against Minnesota, which came into the game leading the Big Ten in holding opposing teams to shooting 28 percent from behind the arc.
In a game that was back-and-forth from the opening tip, the Badgers’ top-ranked Big Ten defense was able to fend off the Golden Gophers and hold them scoreless for nearly all of the final five minutes of the game. But with 11.2 seconds left, Springs hit a game-tying three-pointer to knot things up at 67-67.
Springs, who played for Milwaukee during his sophomore and junior seasons, hit two free-throws with 22 seconds remaining against Wisconsin on Dec. 9, 2015, to help the Panthers snap a 22-game losing streak to the Badgers.
After Springs’s shot on Saturday, Wisconsin inbounded the ball to Bronson Koenig, who took the ball up the court but eventually lost it, turning it over with two seconds left and ending regulation at 67-67.
In overtime, the Badgers used the tried-and-true combination of Hayes and Koenig to keep them afloat in overtime. Hayes opened the scoring in the final frame for Wisconsin and Koenig followed suit moments later to put the Badgers up 72-71.
After three Minnesota free throws, Hayes backed in a defender and hit a short floater to tie the game back up at 74-74.
Following the Hayes floater, Minnesota guard Nate Mason took the ball upcourt and as he was driving for the go-ahead score, he found Eric Curry on the baseline while falling down. Curry was left open as Hayes stumbled when the falling Mason collided with him. Curry scored the go-ahead basket, putting Minnesota up 76-74 off of Mason’s 10th assist.
Once again, just as in the closing seconds of regulation, Wisconsin called upon Koenig, who scored six of his 11 points in overtime.
The senior guard came off of a Hayes screen that impeded the trailing Mason, enough for Koenig to get off the go-ahead three-pointer on an assist from Happ with 44 seconds remaining.
Wisconsin’s top-ranked defense once again stood its ground, ending a streak of five straight scoring possessions by Minnesota with a Happ block on Coffey’s attempt at a go-ahead basket.
Happ, a 50 percent free-throw shooter on the season, was sent to the line with 13 seconds remaining. He hit one of two from the line, and unlike last season and in the waning moments of regulation, Springs was unable to connect on the game-winning basket as time expired, allowing Wisconsin to hang on for a 78-76 victory.
The Badgers host Penn State (11-9, 3-4) on Tuesday at 8 p.m.