The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers 61-59 on Tuesday, bouncing back in the second half after blowing a 15-point lead to ultimately win a close game against their rivals in the Border Battle.
In the win, Wisconsin had a great start, but struggled to maintain their lead after Minnesota hit their first six threes of the second half, cutting the lead and making the game competitive.
Still, with the challenge at hand, Wisconsin was able to pull through and ultimately grind this one out for a victory.
Here are my grades for the Badgers against Minnesota.
On Tuesday, the Badgers could not put up the points we are used to seeing on a gamely basis. Strong defense from both teams was on display.
A.J. Storr continued to show out, getting to his spot in the lane and getting to the free-throw line. Tyler Wahl, playing back in his home state, continued his fifth-year campaign with yet another integral performance in the post, scoring 16 points, and also hitting down a clutch three.
The offense needs to continue to attack the paint and suck the defense in. Quite a few threes came from kicking inside the post and then kicking back out, taking advantage of Minnesota’s slower defense.
The issue came really with the amount of turnovers. The Badgers had seven turnovers in the first half alone, and ended with 11 in the game. Tightening up ball security and minimizing miscommunications throughout the game is going to be crucial for the Badgers as they enter a tougher stretch down the season.
The defense continued to impress, playing tough, hard-nosed basketball down low and getting hands into passing lanes, such as Max Klesmit’s late steal in the 2nd half to tie the game up. The Badgers ended the night with five steals, with Klesmit and Chucky accounting for two each.
The Badgers held Minnesota to a below-average field goal percentage of 31 percent in the first half compared to Wisconsin’s 50 percent, which led to a 10-point lead and only 24 points for Minnesota.
Minnesota stepped up in the second half, going 6/6 from three to begin the half and really attacking Wisconsin from the perimeter. The defense seemed to lose a step to start the second, as it seemed like Minnesota got too comfortable.
This led to a 10-2 run by the Gophers. Minnesota was able to ride that momentum to tighten the score and eventually take the lead.
While the Badgers did play well overall on defense, there were quite a few hiccups that led to wide-open shots for the Gophers, but Minnesota was not able to cash in on some of those opportunites.
Defensively, after being up 15, it is hard to imagine a defensive breakdown as such. In the end, the defense played well when it really mattered, stopping Minnesota and securing the victory.
Overall Grade: B
The Badgers made this game tougher than it should have been, but played tough down the wire and came out on top.
To get to their March level, the Badgers need to continue to play good team basketball and especially strong team defense.
Their defense and efficiency have continued to impress this season and it showed in this game, taking large leads in the first and second, but both those leads were eradicated by the Minnesota offense. The Badgers need to continue to push the pedal when they are up and try to ride their players’ momentum as far as they can.
Turnovers really killed scoring runs today, but the potential to make a run in March is clearly there, and fixing the small things can take this team there.