Preview: No.21 Wisconsin at Minnesota

Following another difficult loss at home, No.21 Wisconsin takes its impressive 7-2 record away from the Kohl Center over the border, as the Badgers look for their first win at Williams Arena when it takes on Minnesota tonight.

No.21 Wisconsin (18-6, 7-4 Big Ten) vs. Minnesota (17-7, 5-6 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Thursday, February 9, 6:00 p.m. Central

Arena – Williams Arena (14,625)

Television - ESPN (Dave O'Brien and Stephen Bardo)

Radio - ESPN (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Minnesota leads 100-89 (Minnesota leads 67-30 in Minneapolis)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 68-60, on December 28, 2010 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

5 Ryan Evans (6-6 Junior Forward, 10.0 ppg)

11 Jordan Taylor (6-1 Senior Guard, 14.0 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 7.4 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (6-6 Junior Forward, 6.7 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (6-10 Junior Forward, 10.5 ppg)

Off the Bench

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Sophomore Guard, 8.9 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Freshman Guard, 1.6 ppg)

33 Rob Wilson (6-4 Senior Guard, 2.4 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (6-11 Freshman Forward, 2.3 ppg)

Minnesota Probable Starters

00 Julian Welch (6-3 Junior Guard, 10.2 ppg)

11 Joe Coleman (6-4 Freshman Guard, 5.8 ppg)

20 Austin Hollins (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 8.5 ppg)

33 Rodney Williams (6-7 Junior Forward, 10.5 ppg)

50 Ralph Sampson III (6-11 Senior Forward, 8.4 ppg)

Off the Bench

1 Andre Hollins (6-1 Freshman Guard, 5.6 ppg)

10 Oto Ošenieks (6-8 Freshman Forward, 3.3 ppg)

13 Maverick Ahanmisi (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 4.0 ppg)

55 Elliott Eliason (6-11 Freshman Center, 2.5 ppg)

Last Time Out

No.3 Ohio State (20-3, 8-2 Big Ten) ended UW's winning streak at six games, maintained sole possession of first place and won at the Kohl Center for the first time since 2000. Meanwhile, Wisconsin (18-6, 7-4) dropped into third place despite holding the third-ranked team in the country – a unit that averaged 77.8 points per game – to a season-low 58 points.

"Everybody was getting open looks and we've got to knock them down," said a frustrated Mike Bruesewitz, as No.19 Wisconsin missed 22 three-pointers in a 58-52 loss to No.3 Ohio State Saturday. "We were put in position … we just got to knock shots down when we are open."

Because of it, the Badgers lost at least four games at home for the first time since the 1997-98 season - a year in which Wisconsin went 12-19, 3-13 in the Big Ten and 7-8 at home – and allow three Big Ten teams to get their first win at the Kohl Center with Bo Ryan being the UW coach.

Wisconsin added to its home legacy last season with a four-point upset over then-No.1 Ohio State, and had opportunities to do it again in the rematch … but it never made a shot. With the Buckeyes seemingly daring the Badgers to hit an open look, Wisconsin shot 2-for-14 from three (14.3 percent) in the first half and 3-for-13 in the second half (23.1 percent).

It also didn't help that Ohio State's two key contributors are leaps and bounds better than last season.

Sophomore Jared Sullinger spurred the NBA last season so he could continue to develop his game. Not only did he shed the freshman 15 (plus roughly 10 more), he became twice the player, scoring a game-high 24 points on 8-for-16 shooting, including 8-for-10 from the line, and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Sophomore Aaron Craft was a non-factor offensively – just three points on one made field goal – but it was his defensive work against Jordan Taylor that yielded dividend. A year after Taylor was able to shake Craft with his dribble and create open looks for himself with high ball screens, Taylor could only manage 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting.

After not having a turnover since the 19:40 mark in the second half against Northwestern, Taylor had three against the Buckeyes – the most damaging coming with 1:25 remaining when he was whistled for traveling.

"Kind of disappointing," said Taylor. "I felt I could of made more shots, been more aggressive in the second half but there's nothing I can do about it now."

Deshaun Thomas added 16 points and the Buckeyes hit 13 of 16 free-throw attempts – a stark comparison to Taylor hitting all three of UW's free throws. Still, Wisconsin had a chance, thanks to junior Mike Bruesewitz.

Just like he did the year before, Bruesewitz attempted to carry a limping Wisconsin to the finish line. After hitting a key three-pointer last year to give UW a five-point lead with 30 seconds left, Bruesewitz came to life in the second half. He scored nine of his 11 points after halftime, scored six of his points off offensive rebounds and hit a three-pointer with 3:46 left.

That followed his block of Sullinger and a defensive rebound - one of a game-high 11 rebounds he grabbed in the game – to give UW some life.

Problem was UW's next three possessions were a Taylor turnover, a Bruesewitz missed three-pointer and another Taylor turnover, as Ohio State went on a 5-0 run jumpstarted by a big three-pointer by William Buford (4-for-15, 11 points). Wisconsin closed the game by missing its last three three-pointers.

- By Benjamin Worgull –

Last Meeting

Jordan Taylor dominated in every facet of the game Tuesday night, scoring the ball to the tune of 22 points, dishing out seven assists against one turnover and forcing No.14 Minnesota to play at Wisconsin's pace for 40 minutes as UW went on to win its Big Ten opener 68-60.

The rest of the team followed Taylor's example of heady play, with the Badgers turning the ball over just twice all game and knocking down 17-of-18 free throws.

But it was Taylor Time that stole the show and earned the win.

"Not only in terms of actual basketball but the aggressiveness with how he plays is really controlling for how as a team we play," UW senior Keaton Nankivil said. "Tonight, I saw he push through some fatigue and play a lot of minutes against some very tough guards. As a teammate, to see him do that it really inspires us to keep going."

After missing his first three shots to start the game, Taylor toyed with the Minnesota guards for the rest of the night. With eight minutes left in the first half, Taylor scored on three consecutive possessions — a three-pointer, a runner in the lane and a driving layup — along with drawing a charge during the stretch. He took it to Devoe Joseph two possessions later to earn a trip to the free throw line.

Taylor then managed to top that stretch at the end of the second half with the Badgers leading by one point with roughly 1:30 remaining in the game. After taking 20 or so seconds off the shot clock, Taylor drove the lane hard and drew two Minnesota bigs to him. One hard pump fake and he got seven-footer Ralph Sampson III into the air. Taylor took the contact and spun the ball off the backboard for an old-school three-point play, giving UW a four point lead with 70 seconds remaining in the game.

Wisconsin was able to ice the game one possession later after Jon Leuer hauled in an offensive rebound with 26 seconds left in the game, knocking down both free throw attempts on the one-and-one.

- By Michael Bleach –

Series Notes:

Bo Ryan owns a 13-4 record against Minnesota with a 5-3 record at Williams Arena.

Tubby Smith owns a 3-3 (.500) record against Ryan's teams, the 2nd-best winning percentage by any active Big Ten coach vs. Ryan-led UW teams (Purdue's Matt Painter is 7-4).

The Badgers did not play at Minnesota last season and have not won at Williams Arena since 2008, a string of two straight the Gophers' wins.

Wisconsin's current roster has very little experience playing at Minnesota. Only 4 players on the UW roster have appeared in a game at Williams Arena, combining for just 83 minutes and 5 points.

Jordan Taylor is the only current UW player to have scored at Minnesota, posting 5 points, 2 rebounds and 6 assists in 36 minutes in 2010.

Minnesota only has four active players on its roster that have logged minutes against Wisconsin. Maverick Ahanmisi, Austin Hollins and Rodney Williams have played one game against the Badgers while Ralph Sampson III has played in four border wars. Sampson III holds averages of 8.5 points & 6.0 rebounds in those four games. Williams missed the 2010 matchup with an injury.

Taylor scored 22 points with 7 assists in the only UW-UM meeting a year ago. Jared Berggren added 8 points, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks off the bench.

The Badgers' roster has 4 players from the state of Minnesota: Jared Berggren (Princeton), Mike Bruesewitz (St. Paul), Jordan Smith (Orono) and Jordan Taylor (Bloomington).

Wisconsin Notes

The Badgers are 7-2 away from the Kohl Center, including 5-2 in true road environments with the only losses coming at No. 5 North Carolina and No. 16 Michigan. Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in road wins, in fact only 3 BCS conference teams have more road wins this season (Baylor, Syracuse and Arizona).

Wisconsin is limiting foes to an NCAA-best 49.8 points per game (Virginia is 2nd - 51.4 ppg). The 2011-12 UW defense would shatter the school's modern era record (since 1947) of 52.6 ppg.

Taylor has turned the ball over just 4 times in the last 6 games. He had a streak of 159 consecutive turnover-free minutes snapped vs. Ohio State.

With 260 career wins, Bo Ryan is 2nd on UW's all-time list. He needs 6 more wins to supplant Bud Foster (265) as UW's all-time winningest coach.

Minnesota Notes:

Minnesota has led the Big Ten Conference in blocked shots during the last three seasons, including three of the top four season block totals in the history of the Gopher program: a program leading 201 in 2008-09, 199 in 2009-10 and 169 last season. Senior Ralph Sampson III led the team in blocked shots last season and is currently third all-time in program history with 193 career swats. Minnesota has blocked 129 shots this season for an average of 5.4 per game, tops in Big Ten, led by Rodney Williams with 37.

Minnesota's second group of Maverick Ahanmisi, Chip Armelin, Elliott Eliason, Andre Hollins & Oto Osenieks are all averaging at least 10 minutes of court time. The Gophers' bench outscored Nebraska 40-7, led by Armelin's career-high 15 points. The Gophers are 14-3 this season when the bench outscores the opposition's bench.

The Gophers have a record of 65-19 (.774) at Williams arena under head coach Tubby Smith in his four-plus seasons at Minnesota. Minnesota is allowing just 60.7 points per game at Williams arena under Smith (84 games). Under Smith, opponents have only reached 70 points 19 times in the 84 games at The Barn (22% of the time).

So far this season the Gophers are giving up the least amount of points at Williams Arena in the Smith era at 57.6 points per game, nine fewer points allowed per game than a season ago.


The Gophers opened conference play by dropping their opening four games – at Illinois, at Michigan, Iowa and Purdue - and headed to No.7 Indiana with everyone having written them off. Everyone, that is, except those in the maroon and gold. Minnesota has rebounded by winning four of its next five and five of its last seven since losing to Purdue. Since Jan. 12, Minnesota has collected three top-50 RPI wins - Indiana (24), Northwestern (45) and Illinois (37) – and has six top-100 victories on the season, meaning they are squarely in the NCAA Tournament discussion.

The reason is because of Rodney Williams, who united a team on the verge of collapse after Mbakwe's injury. Williams has adapted well since being moved to the power forward position, averaging 6.1 minutes, 3.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and .8 blocks per game since the switch.

"They've responded really well and that's what basketball is all about, athletics (and) life," said Taylor. "We had a similar situation when a couple years ago when Jon (Leuer) went down. They've done a good job replacing him."

Wisconsin has stayed injury free and balanced this season, a reason it ranks second in defensive efficiency (two-tenths of a point per 100 possessions behind Ohio State), first in field goal percentage defense and second in turnover percentage, turning the ball over just 14.8 percent of the time.

Those numbers should help Wisconsin against Minnesota's strength – its bench. On Sunday, the Gophers' starters were a combined 11-for-25 from the field, but the bench came through with 16-for-25 shooting to provide the victory push. Wisconsin needs production from its bench to help its starters, as UW has made two buckets or less in the last two games.

If Wisconsin can get some production from Brust and Kaminsky – maybe even a little magic from Wilson – and continue its stellar road shooting, the Badgers should win this by double figures. Should win … but this one will be a close five-point decision. After Taylor has underperformed in two previous trips there, I believe he, like Kammron Taylor did in his final visit to the Barn, will lead the Badgers to a victory.

Worgull's Record: 20-4

Points off Prediction: 241 (10.04 per game)

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