Gophers Clutch in Win Over Badgers

MINNEAPOLIS – With the Gophers trailing No. 20 Wisconsin 49-43 with just over five minutes remaining at Williams Arena, Minnesota buckled down, coming back to force overtime with a combination of clutch shooting and suffocating defense. The Golden Gophers continued their all-around effort in the extra session, pulling out a 58-53 win against their rivals.

After a Ryan Evans free throw at 5:08 of the second half, Minnesota (18-7, 6-6) trailed the Badgers by six points, as the Maroon and Gold appeared to be letting another game slip away. Having lost six of their last eight games, the Gophers had to make a comeback.

"We knew the last game that time we played [Wisconsin] we had the game in our grasp," said Andre Hollins who scored a game-high 21 points. "We knew it was going to be another tough game but this time we toughed it out mentally. We had positive mental attitude even though we were down."

Following Evans' free throw, the Gophers held Wisconsin (17-8, 8-4) scoreless for the remainder of regulation, missing six shots and turning the ball over three times. The most crucial of these giveaways took place as Wisconsin had a two-point lead with just 22 seconds left. Minnesota native Mike Bruesewitz attempted to inbound the ball but shuffled his feet, giving the ball to the Gophers with a chance to tie.

Joe Coleman made the most of the opportunity, driving into the lane and drawing a foul where he headed to the line with a chance to tie the game. Although he was shooting just 50 percent from the line on the night, the sophomore wing calmly hit both free throws, sending the game to overtime tied 49-49.

"I think that was big," said Rodney Williams. "We had a lot of trust in Joe and he went up there, a young kid in a big environment like this, and he stepped up big and made two of the most clutch free throws in his career."

With the momentum in their favor, the Gophers started overtime where they left off in regulation. With the score still tied, Andre Hollins rose up over the defense and knocked down a three to give the Gophers a lead.

"My teammates did a great job setting screens for me and when I come open, I draw two defenders and that left Rodney and Trevor [Mbakwe] open to grab the rebound," he said. "I had to put the ball up because I trust my teammates to get the rebound if I miss."

Holding the lead, Minnesota was able to continue their impressive defensive performance, holding Wisconsin to just 1-of-10 shooting in overtime and not allowing the Badgers to score until two Sam Dekker free throws with just 1:20 left in the extra period, a scoreless streak of almost 8:48.

"Our defense wins game," said Mbakwe. "We definitely had some key stops in the last nine minutes of the game and we were able to take it to overtime."

In their recent losses, the Gophers have struggled on the defensive end, something they needed to correct in order to top their rivals.

"It was just buckling down and doing what we've been taught," said Austin Hollins. "We've been playing D all year and we've fell off a little bit on our defense but it's something that we work on all the time so it's just a matter of picking it back up."

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