"First and foremost, I give a lot of credit to Wisconsin,” Minnesota Head Coach Richard Pitino said. “I've got a lot of respect for those seniors. They've won a lot of games. Tip of the cap to them. I thought they played very, very well.”
Badger senior Bronson Koenig nailed five threes on his way to a game high 17 points. Koenig consistently found himself with Minnesota bigs switched on to him after second half ball screens and Bronson used this perimeter mismatch as a way to score from the arc.
“I thought we played poor defense,” said Pitino. “He does a lot of coming off of a ball screen and pulls and we weren't up to the level of the screen. Now, he got cooking too. He's a really good player, but we weren't up to the level of the screen like we talked about."
Wisconsin shot 10 of 18 from the arc and 25 of 57 for the game. The 66-49 final score would have been even worse if Wisconsin could shoot foul shots (a consistent struggle). The Badgers made only 6 of16 so things could have been even worse.
"It was pretty low in the second half,” Pitino said. “I think we played very, very poor defense in the second half. I mean they hit 8-for-10 from three. So, it wasn't very good. The execution was very, very poor. I felt we did not play an intelligent game today."
Minnesota’s offense may have been even worse than the defense in the second half. Foul trouble to most of the bigs didn’t help (Reggie Lynch, Eric Curry, and especially Jordan Murphy) but the biggest issue is the pace of which the team played.
The Gophers had only seven assists as a team and four of those came from Amir Coffey in the first half. The second half became an individual session of attacks from Coffey (5-13fg), Nate Mason (8 of 20), and Dupree McBrayer (2 of 6 shooting).
The lack of ball movement and playing with any halfcourt team rhythm led to the 49 points scored total, the 32 percent shooting for the game (18 of 56), only three three-point makes, and the lack of assists.
“I think that we played very, very poorly in the second half,” said Pitino. “Just offensively, no flow. I don't know if it was the foul trouble, I'm not sure, but we were not
confident in what we were doing. We've got to learn from it, make sure we address it and then get excited about where we sit right now, because that's in a great spot."
The Badgers had lost five of their last six games but came together for a dominant performance against rival Minnesota.
“It’s been a rough two weeks, but I couldn't be more proud of the group of 17 young men that stuck together, really circled the wagons, had each other's back,” Wisconsin Head Coach Greg Gard said.
“They had to work through some tough times and to be able to come in here and play this way today against a really good Minnesota team, specifically in the second half. I think we were pretty good for most of the game, but the second half I thought we were terrific at times.
“Defensively, just the togetherness, the grittiness, that was us, that was us. I'm really proud and happy for our seniors obviously, but I'm really happy for everybody because they really rallied together and kept fighting to get through this.”
With the win Wisconsin earned the second seed in the Big Ten Tournament while Minnesota has the four seed Both teams play Friday with Minnesota competing at 1:30 approximately in the afternoon.