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Wisconsin men’s basketball: three things that stood out from the win over Minnesota

Turnovers, free throws, and a guy named Johnny top the list.

Minnesota v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

MADISON — The No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team managed to hold off Minnesota for a tough 66-60 Big Ten win on Sunday afternoon. In a game that was close throughout, the Badgers did just enough to win at the end.

Let’s dig into some of the story lines that emerged from the win over Minnesota.

Three things that stood out...

No. 1: Turnovers

Minnesota came into Sunday’s contest as one of the best team’s in the country in terms of taking care of the basketball. In the first half alone, Minnesota uncharacteristically recorded seven turnovers as the Badgers did a nice job defensively to pressure the ball. Not only did those turnovers provide extra opportunities for Wisconsin, but the Badgers also ended the half +10 in points off turnovers.

For the game, the Badgers only turned the ball over seven times and Minnesota was unable to muster much (four points) off those miscues. Wisconsin on the other hand scored 13 points off of the 11 total turnovers that Minnesota had. In a game that was close throughout, the ability of Wisconsin to not only turn the Gophers over but also convert on the other end played a key role in the win.

No. 2: Foul trouble and FTs

The game flowed nicely in the first half. The refs allowed both teams to play and get into a rhythm. In the second half though, the Badgers got into some foul trouble, specifically Tyler Wahl.

Without Wahl on the court, Minnesota went on a couple of runs, as the Badgers struggled to get going on offense for multiple stretches of the game. Wisconsin’s lack of depth has been discussed on numerous occasions, but Minnesota doesn’t rely on their bench much either. However, the Gophers were able to make moves when Chucky Hepburn and/or Wahl was off the court. Jahcobi Neath was the only reserve with a positive +/- for the Badgers, and that is indicative of Minnesota’s runs against the bench.

The Badgers did however do a good job of getting to the foul line and converting in the second half. 12 of the team’s 15 free throws came in the final 20 minutes of the game, and the Badgers converted on 80% of their attempts for the night. The Gophers were also efficient from the line, but Wisconsin was able to get to the line six more times overall, and in a six-point win that turned out to be a big deal.

No. 3: Johnny Davis, the closer

Opponents continue to play Johnny Davis tough in Big Ten play. The sophomore guard has seen teams increase their physicality against him, and there has been a concerted effort to mitigate the damage he can do in the paint utilizing his quickness.

Minnesota was no different. The Gophers had an extra defender shading to his side throughout the game for help, and when the on-ball defender was beaten by Davis, the Gophers guards were quick to foul him before he could get into the paint.

Davis is incredibly dangerous in transition and when he can get to the rim, and teams know that by now. Johnny hit a couple of tough jumpers to keep Minnesota honest but in the end his play in the final moments of the game was huge. He went on a 6-0 run and grabbed a big offensive rebound to salt away the game.

Overall, Davis finished the game with 16 points and 15 rebounds in a game where he was once again the top player on the court and the central focus of what Minnesota was attempting to do on defense. How he continues to adapt his game offensively to counteract what teams are doing will be fun to monitor as the season progresses, but his performance late, when it mattered most, was the primary story line in my opinion. A double-double from a wing with 15 rebounds rarely happen, but Davis is a rare player.

Up next: Wisconsin will take on Illinois on Wednesday night in Champaign. Tip time is set for 8 p.m. CT and the game is scheduled to be aired on BTN.