MADISON – The third-winningest class in UW history notched their 111th win on Sunday, defeating Minnesota 66-49. The win helped the Badgers end the season on a high note after their recent skid. The win also helped Wisconsin secure the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament next weekend, meaning they have a double-bye and will play their first game on Friday.
The game was won on the defensive end by Wisconsin, holding the Gophers to just 32% shooting from the field. Minnesota was just 7/30 in the second half.
After another slow start, the Badgers caught fire from beyond the arc as the game resumed after halftime. Minnesota led by two at the break, 29-27, but an 18-2 Wisconsin run turned the game completely around as the Badgers took a 48-35 advantage.
The Badgers were just 2/8 from beyond the arc during the first half. The second half was a complete turnaround, as they went 8/10 from the three-point line, finishing the game 10/18.
Koenig sat for the majority of the first half with foul trouble, but got the three party started by knocking down two threes to start the half. After him, Nigel Hayes hit his first three since the game-winner against Nebraska. Zak Showalter also joined in, hitting his second three of the game.
Then, it was the freshman’s turn. D’Mitrik Trice knocked down another Badger three and got fouled, converting the four-point play. The next possession, Trice scored again on a layup following a nice pass from Vitto Brown.
“He captained the ship,” Greg Gard said of Trice.
Brown capped off the 18-2 run with a slam, rolling after setting a pick for Koenig. As both defenders jumped at Koenig, Brown was left all alone and Koenig hit him in stride.
Minnesota stayed close, but ultimately never had quite enough to pull off the comeback. Nate Mason scored 17 points, with 11 coming in the first half.
The game was very reminiscent of the Maryland matchup three weeks ago. After a miserable first half, the Badgers took control in the second half on their way to a victory.
It was a group effort for the Badger seniors, as three of the four finished in double-figures. Koenig led with 17 points, and all 17 came after halftime. Hayes and Showalter both chipped in 12 apiece.
Koenig ended the season by putting on a show. As the Badgers were icing the game, Koenig knocked down three threes in the final minutes. The defense was there, but Koenig was just hot.
“It felt great to finally see shots fall,” Koenig said. “I told myself to keep being aggressive. I guess that’s what I do, close games.”
“I knew he would be fresh,” Gard said after the game.
Ethan Happ might not have had the prettiest game, but he nonetheless totaled a pretty impressive stat line. Happ finished with nine points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and two blocks.
Although the Badgers won, free throws continue to be a major problem for the Badgers. The Badgers were just 6/16 from the free throw line. Hayes went just 1/5, while Khalil Iverson and Happ both went 1/4.
Up next: The Badgers play on Friday in Washington D.C. in the Big Ten Tournament.