The Wisconsin Badgers traveled to "The Barn" on Thursday hoping to clinch the outright Big Ten Championship. The Minnesota Golden Gophers were looking to ride the momentum of a dramatic overtime win over Michigan State going into Thursday's contest with Wisconsin.
The Badgers came out hot and opened up with a 14-4 run. They pushed their lead up to 20 in the first half before the Golden Gophers came fighting back. Minnesota ended the half on an 18-8 run to cut the deficit to just 10. Wisconsin didn't let them get much closer than that throughout the 2nd half and won by a final of 76-63.
What We Learned
The Badgers are the outright champs
Tonight was the coronation of the Big Ten's most dominant team. They took care of business on a nightly basis and came to play every night (except against Rutgers in early January). Wednesday night was just another example of that. Even though they were playing against an inferior team on the road, they came out with the intensity and determination good teams need to win. The Badgers did an excellent job of silencing "The Barn" with their run to start the game. That set the tone for the rest of the game. On Thursday night, the Big Ten's most dominant team became the outright champs.
Minnesota doesn't go away easy at "The Barn"
It would've been easy for the Golden Gophers to pack it in after they got down by 20, but they didn't. They did an excellent job of fighting back. They were able to cut the deficit to 6 before the Badgers took control back of the game. They weren't able to steal the one, but they made the Badgers work for it.
Wisconsin is unstoppable when they are hitting their 3's
The Badgers shot 50% from behind the arc on 10 of 20 shooting. They came into this one having the 8th ranked shooting percentage in the conference. You don't normally think of Wisconsin as a 3 point shooting team, but they showed us on Thursday night that they can hit from deep. The Badgers are one of the most well rounded teams in the entire country and their 3 point shooting against Minnesota was just more proof of that.
Nate Mason can perform well against the best team in the conference
Mason had an excellent game. He ignited the Golden Gophers come back with a couple momentum changing 3's. He was the team's leading scorer and finished with 15 points. Mason hasn't been the most consistent player throughout the season, but he showed us the potential he has. He was able to put a poor performance against Michigan State last week behind him and performed well against the Badgers. He's definitely a player to watch for in 2016.
Frank Kaminsky is the best player in the league
Just like Wisconsin as a whole, Kaminsky has brought his best game for the Badgers on a nightly basis. Thursday night was just another dominant game for the most dominant player in the league. He finished with 25 points, 7 assists, and 6 boards. He showed us that he can also be a distributer. Is there anything this guy can't do? I don't think there's any debate about who the best player in the league is anymore.
Minnesota showed fight, but they lost to the better team on Thursday night. They will finish up the regular season against Penn State Sunday. We'll see if they can carry any momentum into the Big Ten Tournament and find a way to pull off a couple upsets.
This was just another solid win for the best team in the conference. This was just another conference road win for a team that makes them look routine. They are not the outright Big Ten champs. We'll see if anyone can knock them off in the Big Ten tournament. Wisconsin finishes up the regular season on the road against Ohio State.