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Wisconsin clamps down on Minnesota in 56-51 road win

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A big win on the road for the Badgers.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Make that six in a row for the Wisconsin Badgers, as Greg Gard’s squad came out of Williams Arena with a 56-51 win against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Wednesday night.

Both teams did not shoot well overall inside “The Barn,” but Wisconsin (17-6, 9-3 Big Ten) did just enough offensively to get the road victory. The Badgers made just 19 of 55 attempts overall (34.5 percent)—a mere six of 22 from three-point range (27.3 percent).

However, UW held Minnesota (16-7, 6-6) to 35.1 percent shooting from the field. Showcasing the defensive prowess that has constricted multiple conference teams’ offensive abilities recently, the Badgers also held the Gophers to just one of 13 from deep (a whopping 7.7 percent).

Redshirt senior forward Ethan Happ overcame a rough offensive first half to record his 15th double-double of the season with a team-high 15 points and 13 rebounds, along with four assists.

Sophomore guard Brad Davison scored 10 points on the evening. Though he connected on just 2-of-12 shots—1-of-5 from deep—he made five of six free throws. Fellow sophomore forward and Minnesota native Nate Reuvers contributed nine points, eight rebounds and seven blocks.

Redshirt sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice also scored nine points, hitting on three of eight three-pointers.

For Minnesota, two big men made their respective presences known. Forward Jordan Murphy tallied a game-high 16 points and 19 (19!) rebounds, while center Daniel Oturu scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as well.

After recording 21 points against Wisconsin in the first meeting at the Kohl Center on Jan. 3, Wisconsin held guard Amir Coffey to just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting.

Though Minnesota out-rebounded Wisconsin 45-35, the Badgers pulled down 11 offensive boards. UW also connected on 12-of-18 free throws and limited the Gophers to just 13 attempts from the line.

Despite shooting just 28.1 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, Wisconsin actually led by three heading into halftime in a 24-21 game. Happ and Davison combined to shoot 4-of-18 from the field in that span, but Davison and Reuvers scored 12 points before heading into the locker room.

Minnesota connected on 10 of 26 field goal attempts (38.5 percent) and hit only one of six three-point attempts. Richard Pitino’s team also committed six turnovers and allowed Wisconsin to grab seven offensive rebounds in the first half as well.

Wisconsin extended its lead by as much as 10 points at the 11:00 mark of the second half after a Reuvers layup, but Minnesota responded with a 7-0 run that cut its deficit to three.

From the 9:11 mark for the rest of the contest, the game stayed within two to three possessions with Wisconsin continuing to hold the lead and withstanding Minnesota’s charge.

UW pushed the lead out to seven points after Happ connecting on one of two free throws with 4:09 left, but again the Gophers stuck around.

With the lead whittled down to three again after two Murphy free throws, Trice responded with a clutch three-pointer near the end of the shot clock to double Wisconsin’s advantage to 52-46 with 1:44 remaining in the game.

Coffey missed a three-pointer at the 1:16 mark to try to bring the game back within one possession, and Reuvers grabbed the rebound. Minnesota closed the gap to within five points a couple of times in the final 24 seconds, but Davison and Brevin Pritzl (seven points, three rebounds) connected on their respective free throws to not allow the Gophers to make a late comeback.

Happ scored 11 of his 15 in the second half, while Pritzl successfully made all four of his free throw attempts in the final 20 minutes.

Wisconsin now sits in a tie for third place in the Big Ten with No. 9 Michigan State. The Badgers will head to Ann Arbor to face the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines on Saturday (11 a.m. CT, FOX)