The No. 21/22 Wisconsin men's basketball team (8-4 Big Ten, 19-6 overall) rebounded from its most recent loss against Ohio State, albeit not easily, as it defeated Minnesota (5-7, 17-8) in the 190th meeting of the Border Battle Thursday night, 68-61 in overtime. This was the Badgers' first win at The Barn since 2008.
"I'd be lying if I said this didn't mean a lot," senior guard Jordan Taylor said. "I'm elated to get a win here [at Minnesota]."
In sports, the saying goes that when one has an opponent down they have to step on their throat and finish them, but the Badgers were unable to do this to the Gophers. The Badgers led comfortably for most of the second half, even leading 49-36 with just under nine minutes left. But there is a reason they call it a rivalry. With the Badgers unable to deal the final blow, Minnesota got on a 15-2 run to tie the game with 1:02 to go. There was no scoring from that point on and the game was forced to overtime.
In the overtime period Wisconsin's nine-minute scoring drought was finally broken by a pair of free throws from sophomore guard Josh Gasser to put the Badgers up by two. Junior forward Ryan Evans then stepped up, hitting a jumper and a pair of free throws to put the Badgers back up by six. The Badgers continued to make their free throws down the stretch to finally vanquish their arch-rival.
The star for Wisconsin was a man who hails from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, senior guard Jordan Taylor. What a homecoming it was for Taylor as he was unstoppable in the first half, making 5-6 shots including 4-4 from three to score 14 points. Although he cooled off in the second half and overtime, he still finished with a game-high 27 points.
Evans also had a big game for the Badgers, posting a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Evans was clutch in the overtime period, leading the Badgers with six points in the extra session.
One of the big reasons for the Badgers' disappointing loss to the Buckeyes on Saturday was their inability to hit the three-point shot, shooting only 5-26 on the day.
This was definitely not the case against Minnesota as the Badgers made nine threes and made more threes in the first half against the Gophers, seven, than they did against Ohio State. This quality three-point performance makes perfect sense if you look at the Badgers' season numbers. The Badgers came into this game shooting 40 percent from three on the road, but only 23 percent at home.
A big reason for this great shooting performance was the unselfish passing the Badgers displayed. Wisconsin found open man after open man, assisting on 13 of their 19 made baskets.
Wisconsin started the game off on fire, making five of their first six shots. Wisconsin then went on a 0-6 cold streak, however, that lasted over six minutes and found them down by two. But Taylor stepped up for the Badgers and propelled the team to a six-point lead by scoring eight straight Badger points. The Badgers would continue the momentum from there, taking a 32-24 lead into halftime.
The team that Wisconsin fans dread to see reappeared once again late in the game as the Badgers went on one of their patented cold stretches and shot 28 percent in the second half.
The leading scorers for the Golden Gophers were freshman guard Andre Hollins with 20 and junior forward Rodney Williams with 16 points.
The Badgers will now have a week to gear up for another Big Ten road showdown against Michigan State next Thursday.
It is good to see the Badgers are living up to the hype. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!