MADISON, WI – Wisconsin put themselves in a hole that they ultimately could not get out of. The Badgers scored just 14 first-half points and shot terribly from the free throw line on their way to a 59-52 loss. Amir Coffey scored a game-high 21 points to help Minnesota win their first game in the Kohl Center since 2009. The loss gives Wisconsin its first losing streak of the year, with their record now at 10-4.
Wisconsin had their worst offensive half of the year in the first half. The Badgers missed nine straight shots and turned the ball over four times, resulting in a scoring drought of over nine minutes. Eventually, Pritzl came off the bench and canned a three for Wisconsin to end the drought. The Badgers scored just six points in the game’s opening 12 minutes. Wisconsin ended an abysmal six-of-26 on shooting in the first half.
Minnesota wasn’t setting records offensively either, but Amir Coffey played the role of distributor to find the Gophers some easy ones. During the Badger drought, on back-to-back possessions Coffey found open teammates under the hoop with darts, resulting in two layups and a 13-6 Gopher lead.
Coffey then went from distributor to scorer with nine straight points. The junior forward hit a pull up from the left elbow and knocked down a three. A few possessions later, Coffey hit a runner and then went two-of-two from the charity stripe.
To make matters worse, Brad Davison earned a technical foul after not receiving what he felt should have been a foul call on a drive to the hoop. Coffey went to the line and tacked on another free throw.
Moments later, Coffey would hit a three and a tough floater on consecutive possessions. The game turned into the Amir Coffey show, with the junior outscoring the Badgers by himself 15-14 in the first half. Overall, the Gophers took a 15-point lead into halftime. The Badgers had three scoring droughts of nearly three minutes. The Badgers put themselves into a position where they had to overcome a difference that was larger than their total scoring output in the first half.
Out of the break, Happ scored 7 of the game’s first nine points. In 3:07, Happ scored more than his entire first half output (6). Overall, the Badgers scored 11 of the game’s first 13 points, putting them back within five points in just five minutes of game time.
Right when it seemed like Wisconsin was back in the game, Brock Stull hit a Curry range three to quiet the Kohl Center. On the other end, Happ had a bunny roll around the rim and out, and then the Badgers lost Stull in transition as he nailed another step-in three. Just like that, the Gopher lead went from six to 12, and the Badgers were back in a hole.
To Wisconsin’s credit, the Badgers battled back again. Wisconsin went on a 9-4 run, with all points coming from Minnesota natives, Nate Reuvers (7) and Brad Davison (2).
Dupree Mcbrayer made some big plays to keep the Badgers slightly out of reach. Mcbrayer lost the ball with four seconds left on the shot clock from the three-point line, regained possession and made it all the way to the hoop for a layup right as the clock expired. The tough make took the wind out of the Kohl Center. Moments later, the senior hit a big three to put the Gophers back up by 11.
The Badgers continued to fight and get themselves back in the game. The Badgers went on a 9-0 run over four minutes to get back within two. D’Mitrik Trice had a beautiful floater off the glass to make it a one-possession game for the first time since the opening minutes.
McBrayer and Coffey would close the door after it became a two-point game. Coffey hit a floater, and then Mcbrayer hit two consecutive buckets, including a transition dunk, to seal the game.
The Badgers shot just 7/17 from the charity stripe. Wisconsin had its chances to bring the game even closer, but free throws continue to be an issue for this team. Additionally, Wisconsin came into the game as the second-best shooting team in the Big Ten but shot just 5/22 from distance on Thursday night.
Happ led the Badgers with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Up next, the Badgers (10-4, 2-1) are back on the road against Penn State on Sunday night.