The Golden Gophers never trailed a single second Wednesday night as they defeated the #8 ranked Badgers 81-68. The relentless roars of the capacity filled Williams Arena provided enough lift for the Gophers as they battled out a hard fought game.
The story of the first half was Minnesota’s Maurice Walker. With scoring leader Andre Hollins injuring his ankle in the opening seconds someone needed to step up. The Junior forward did just that by putting on a show off the bench. In the first 20 minutes he scored 14 points amassing his previous career high. Two quick fouls forced Wisconsin’s big man Frank Kaminsky to retire early from the first half giving Walker the perfect opportunity to pick on Freshman back-up Nigel Hayes.
When Hayes needed rest the responsibility to anchor the Badger defense was handed to Sam Dekker and Zach Bohannon. The Gophers quickly pounced on the opportunity and attacked the paint at a pace the Badgers couldn’t handle.
The Badgers however didn’t give in. They headed into the second half with a six point deficit and with Frank Kaminsky returning to action things looked positive for UW.
The Gophers however thought otherwise. Even with the seven foot Kaminsky back Minnesota continued to make their presence known inside. Of their 33 field goals made only six came outside the painted area. Although Andre Hollins was out, Minnesota’s guard play from Austin Hollins and Deandre Mathieu was deadly. Their speed and athleticism had the Badgers running all over the court. With 5:54 remaining a poor Badger defensive switch left Austin Hollins wide open to the rim. Hollins seized the opportunity and threw down a ferocious jam erupting “The Barn” into a frenzy.
The Badgers attempted to swing the momentum with a few buckets from Kaminsky and Dekker but the defense just couldn’t hold. The Gophers road the energy of the 14,000 plus in attendance as they fought their way to the finish.
The loss now makes it the Badger’s third in a row. They currently sit fifth in the Big Ten standings at 3-3. With match ups against Purdue and Northwestern coming up they hope to get back to their winning ways. The key to their success will be defense. If they continue to allow teams to shoot high percentages they wont last through the remainder of the brutal Big Ten season.
Mid-season coach of the year Bo Ryan will have his hands full but Wisconsin faithful wouldn’t want any other running the show.