The 19th-ranked Badgers extended their winning streak to six games with a 56-51 win over Minnesota on Wednesday night. Minnesota stayed close the entire game, but Wisconsin pulled out an important road victory with tough matchups against Michigan and Michigan State on the horizon. The Badgers improved to 17-6 overall and 9-3 in the Big Ten, trailing only Michigan and Purdue in the conference.
With 1:44 remaining in the game and the Badgers up by three points, D’Mitrik Trice had the ball at the top of the key with the shot clock winding down.
The Badgers sophomore point guard had only hit two shots prior, both threes. Trice decided to fire another one up. It was just like all the other big shots he’s hit all year; he used the dribble to create just enough space and drilled the triple.
It would be the biggest shot of the night in a game full of disjointed offense. Trice’s three gave the Badgers a 52-46 lead and the shot served as the dagger for Wisconsin to even up the season series with Minnesota, with both teams getting wins on the road.
Ethan Happ once again paced the Badgers with team-highs in points (15), rebounds (13), and assists (4), but was far from perfect in the victory on Wednesday night. The only other Badger in double-figures was Brad Davison, who did not join him until the final moments of the game. But the game was a defensive struggle, and the Badgers identify with that side of the ball.
The Badgers offense was just nine-of-32 in the first half was outshot by nearly ten percent by the Gophers. Amazingly, however, Wisconsin led at the break and controlled most of the first half. Happ and Davison were just a combined four-of-18.
Wisconsin had its chances at the rim, especially early, but missed some easy ones inside. It was one of the uglier halves in recent memories for Greg Gard’s squad. The Badgers committed zero fouls and only three turnovers, so at first glance, it seemed like a clean half. That and Wisconsin’s four three-pointers to Minnesota’s one allowed Wisconsin to go into the break with the advantage.
After halftime, the Badgers bullied Minnesota inside to behind the likes of Happ, Nathan Reuvers, and Khalil Iverson, and took a commanding 37-27 lead, the largest by either team all night. It seemed like Wisconsin was over its sluggish start.
Minnesota would bring it back within three points twice, as Jordan Murphy was giving the Badgers fits. Murphy got the Gophers second chances all night, grabbing eight offensive boards. He led the game in scoring with 16 points and 19 rebounds.
Amir Coffey destroyed the Badgers in the Gophers’ win in Madison earlier in the season. Coffey was the best player on the floor as he did it all: shooting, driving, and distributing. This time around, the Badgers defense did a much better job of containing the Minnesota junior, holding him to just seven points and one assist.
Nathan Reuvers, a Minnesota native, anchored Wisconsin’s defense down low as he has all year. The Minnesota native had seven blocks to go along with nine points and eight rebounds. Reuvers had some key blocks down the stretch to hold Minnesota off.
Up next, the Badgers play at #6 Michigan on Saturday at 11:00 a.m.