Oh, those poor Minnesota Gophers. Another tough loss that could end up being the difference between an NCAA Tournament bid and an invitation to the lame as heck NIT. Wisconsin appeared to be running away with the game midway through the second half, but then the Badgers hit a scoring drought that lasted for the last 7-plus minutes of regulation.
Yes, that usually means the game went into overtime. That was certainly the case on Thursday night. Minnesota guard Austin Hollins tied the score at 51-51 with a pair of free throws with 1:02 remaining in the second half. Wisconsin's Jared Berggren missed a corner trey on the ensuing possession to set up Minnesota's try for the win.
"I was trying to stay solid, stay in front of him," said Taylor, who accomplished his goal and made Hollins take a tough shot. "I was fortunate enough to get a piece of the shot."
The other Hollins, Minnesota's Austin, was able to track down the rebound for another crack at the victory, but his fade away shot was off target and the game went to overtime. That's when everything changed for Wisconsin.
Despite the raucous atmospher inside The Barn, Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Bo Ryan's Badgers remained calm.
Yet the mood inside the UW huddle just before overtime was decidedly upbeat.
"We said everybody's got to be aggressive," junior forward Mike Bruesewitz explained. "Everybody's got to make hard cuts. We've got to move better. We can't just look at Jordan and say take over this game for us. Everybody's got to make sure they do their own part."
Wisconsin showed a much more aggressive gameplan in the extra period. Instead of just living on the perimeter, the Badgers dashed toward the hoop and drew fouls. Of their 17 overtime points, 15 came from the free throw line. Wisconsin went on to win 68-61.
Hit the jump for a statistical summary.
- Jordan Taylor was living in dream land for most of the game, especially in the first half. He scored 27 points total, 15 of which came on three-pointers. Wisconsin's main man shot 5 of 9 from beyond the arc and 8 of 14 overall.
- Taylor did so much shooting, in fact, that for only the second time this season, he failed to record an assist in a game. The other time was versus Nebraska on January 15. To pick up the slack, Josh Gasser and Mike Bruesewitz had 4 assists each.
- Ryan Evans has been getting closer and closer to being the partner-in-crime that Taylor has been looking for. On Thursday he took a big step with his first double-double of the season. Evans led his team with 11 rebounds (4 offensive) and pitched in 17 points as well.
- Wisconsin was 21 of 25 on free throws for the game, which means they only had 8 attempts heading into overtime. Talk about a change of direction. Minnesota was just 9 of 14 from the stripe.
- In a strange but not incredibly surprising development, the Badgers shot better from three point range (39%) than they did overall (36%). At least all the converted free throws shows they are somewhat capable of making shots shorter than 21 feet.
- For Minnesota, Andre Hollins combated Taylor on the three-point front. He scored 20 points, including 16 in the second half. Hollins shot 5 of 6 on threes and 1 of 6 on twos, which makes you wonder why he ventured into the paint for the game-winning attempt.
- Rodney Williams threw in 16 points on 7 of 13 shooting. Ralph Sampson paced the Gophers with 7 rebounds and Julian Welch had 3 assists.
Wisconsin is now 8-4 and two losses behind 9-2 Ohio State for the conference lead. Minnesota falls to 5-7, which is the same record as Iowa and one loss back from a bunch of 5-6 teams: Illinois, Northwestern and Purdue. Next up, Wisconsin visits Michigan State on Thursday while Minnesota hosts Ohio State on Tuesday.