Coming off of a tough loss at home to Maryland, the No. 6 ranked Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (9-2 overall, 3-1 B1G) was back in action on New Year’s Eve for a rivalry game with No. 21 Minnesota (9-2 overall, 2-2 B1G).
While the Badgers had a recent stumble, Minnesota came in sporting consecutive wins over ranked opponents thanks to some stellar play by point guard Marcus Carr. On Wednesday afternoon at the Kohl Center, it was the Badgers who exited victorious, winning over the Gophers by 12 as they led the entire game.
In the opening moments of the game, the Badgers made a concerted effort to go inside against Minnesota center Liam Robbins. Micah Potter scored the first five points of the game, as Wisconsin fed the ball to him in the paint against Robbins repeatedly.
After Minnesota started to find their rhythm on offense, Wisconsin was able to force four-straight turnovers including a pretty pick-pocket by Jonathan Davis that led to a breakaway dunk. As a result Wisconsin held a 14-7 lead after the first eight minutes of action.
Over the next handful of minutes, neither team was able to do much of anything on the offensive end. Extended scoring droughts hurt both teams, but it was Wisconsin who would maintain a safe distance from the Gophers up five with 3:48 left in the first half.
Over the final few minutes Wisconsin was able to advance their lead slightly to take a seven point lead into the break.
Wisconsin takes a 29-22 advantage into the half.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) December 31, 2020
The #Badgers shot 39.4% from the field, and forced seven Minnesota turnovers.
Micah Potter in double-double watch with 10 points and 9 rebounds already.
Coming out of the halftime break, Aleem Ford would score five quick points to help propel the Badgers forward to a 14-point lead over the Gophers after the first three minutes.
Wisconsin would continue to pile it on over the next five minutes as Minnesota couldn’t find an answer for anything that the Badgers did. Wisconsin was able to push their lead all the way up to 26 at one point, but the Gophers would make a brief run to tighten the score back to 17 with four minutes left in the half.
Over the final minutes, the Badgers were able to run clock and ultimately secured a 12-point win.
And that will do.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) December 31, 2020
The #Badgers led the Gophers the entire time, as they improve to 3-1 in the B1G with a 71-59 win over Minnesota.
Micah Potter paced the team with 18 pts and 11 boards.
Notable stat lines:
- Micah Potter —> 18 points (8-of-15 shooting), 11 rebounds, two assists
- Aleem Ford —> 14 points (6-of-10 shooting), three rebounds, two blocks
- D’Mitrik Trice —> 14 points (6-of-11 shooting), five rebounds, five assists
We want Davison to come back next year just to see how mad it would make, well, everyone in the Big Ten. https://t.co/EmLLLygszT— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) December 31, 2020
Three things that stood out
No. 1: Paint problems —> no problems
Wisconsin made it a priority early to go inside on Minnesota and attack big man Liam Robbins. While that strategy allowed the Badgers to take a lead into the half, the team was far from efficient in the paint.
In the first half Wisconsin was able to put together 18 points in the paint, but was only 6-of-10 on layups, and missed quite a few close shots that appeared to be gimmies. Those struggles from the first half disappeared quickly for the Badgers in the second stanza, as everything was going Wisconsin’s way during the final 20 minutes.
In the second half the Badgers shot over 65% from the field, including 66% from deep, as everything was falling for them.
Minnesota came into this game scoring 80+ points in 7 of their 10 games.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) December 31, 2020
The #Badgers have held them to 34 points on 22% shooting with just over 8 minutes remaining.
This game is ALL Wisconsin right now.
No. 2: Rebounding
In the first half, Minnesota was very active on the offensive glass. The Gophers took advantage of some poor Wisconsin rebounding to secure nine offensive boards, and scored eight of their 22 points off of second chance opportunities.
Micah Potter was a bright spot in the rebounding department for the Badgers, with nine in the first half, including three offensive boards of his own, but the the first half was not great as Minnesota outrebounded Wisconsin by five despite missing seven more shots.
In the second half, Wisconsin did a much better job of boxing out, and did enough to win out over the Gophers. Rebounding will still be something to monitor as Big Ten play rolls on, because allowing 16 offensive boards can tilt a game if the other team is able to take advantage.
No. 3: D-Fence
Wisconsin did a great job of hedging on ball screens and relying on help defense as they recovered while trying to stop Marcus Carr. Carr is one of the best guards in the Big Ten, and came into the Kohl Center averaging 24 points per game.
D’Mitrik Trice did a great job as the primary defender for Carr, but his teammates helped him out throughout the game. For the game, Carr went on to finish with 10 points, 14 below his season average.
Wisconsin struggled on offensively in this game for long stretches of time, but their defense was consistent. The Badgers were able to turn their defensive stops into some easy buckets and held Minnesota to a season low 59 points.
After the Badgers struggled in the second half against Maryland on the defensive end of the court, it was a positive development to see how well they bounced back against the Gophers.
Absolutely beautiful defensive sequence for Wisconsin. Minnesota gets into "Twist" action. Micah sets a nice hedge and recovers. Ford jams the roller and sprints back into position to hedge the second ball screen. Tyler then tags the roller and closes out to the shooter. pic.twitter.com/V3Vq72EpxK— Badger Film Room (@BadgerFilm) December 31, 2020
Up next: Wisconsin is scheduled to be back on the hardwood on Sunday, Jan. 3, against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Tip-time is set for 11 a.m. and the game can be seen on the Big Ten Network.