Game Day Grades: Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS - It got ugly down the stretch, but No.21 Wisconsin found a way to starve off a game-winning shot and control the five minute overtime period to beat Minnesota on the road Thursday. Badger Nation hands out the grades.

Offense: C+

When the Badgers are shooting the ball well they seem to not be able to miss. But then at other times, they are so cold where they can't buy a basket. That was evident against the Gophers where the Badgers went scoreless for the last 7:43 in the second half. The Badgers can't have scoring droughts like that they need to be able to find ways to get some points, like attacking the rim and drawing contact.

Jordan Taylor was stellar in leading all scorers with 27 points. Taylor came out firing, hitting his first shot of the night - a three-pointer – and scored 14 of his 27 points in the first half. In 43 minutes of work, Taylor went 8-for-14 from the floor.

Taylor was fantastic for the Badgers, but Ryan Evans stepped up and became Taylor's sidekick. Evans recorded his first career double-double - 17 points and 11 rebounds – and was the only other UW player in double figures. Jared Berggren and Josh Gasser each had nine points.

The Badgers went 19-for-53 (35.8 percent) from the floor and missed 10 of their final 12 three-point shots, making the game more interesting than they would have liked.

Despite attempting 23 threes, the Badgers made sure they crashed the boards, turning 10 offensive rebounds into nine second-chance points. Evans was able to pull down four offensive rebounds for the Badgers.

Defense: B

Wisconsin made the Gophers work for every point due to the Badgers having active hands. Wisconsin contested practically every shot and pass the Gophers took. The Gophers had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but the Badgers' defense continued to give the Gophers problems. The Gophers were able to get two shots off but Taylor was able to contest the first shot without fouling. Neither Gasser nor Berggren could come up with the rebound after the miss, but Austin Hollins was left in a difficult spot to try and make his desperation jumper.

The Badgers held Minnesota to 23-for-55 (41.8 percent) shooting from the ball. Two Gophers were able to get into double figures - Andre Hollins had 20 points off the bench while Rodney Williams had 16 points.

Wisconsin was also able to force the Gophers into 13 turnovers. Seven of the 13 Gopher turnovers came off of Badger steals. Taylor led the way with three steals. Wisconsin did a good job of limiting the Gophers to second-chance opportunities - the Gophers were only able to pull down eight offensive rebounds – but the Badgers narrowly lost the rebounding battle 32-30.

Overall: B-

Wisconsin played well for the majority of the game but has to be able to prevent going on long scoring droughts. UW was up 10 with 7:43 to go in the game and simply couldn't score. The Badgers were clearly the better team but just couldn't put Minnesota away on the road until it was given five extra minutes.

Earlier in the season I questioned whether or not the Badgers were mentally tough during their three game losing streak, but I think the Badgers answered that Thursday. The Gophers clearly had the momentum going into the overtime period, but Wisconsin reestablished the momentum from the opening tip and never relinquished it.

Gasser was able to break the Badgers scoring drought by knocking down his two free throws to break the tie at 51 in overtime and had a nice hustle play during the overtime period - diving to try and save the basketball from going out of bounds. Gasser also assisted on Berggren's steal in the overtime period, which helped seal the Badgers victory.

Wisconsin got to the charity stripe at a high rate tonight and made their free throws, which was a key reason why it was able to win. Overall the Badgers went 21-for-25 from the charity stripe, a season-best 84 percent at the free throw line.

For the most part the Badgers did a good job of taking care of the basketball - only turning the ball over nine times - and had a total of six blocks. With Berggren leading the way with three swats, he now has 42 on the season, which is tied for the 6th-most in a single season in UW history.

Wisconsin really didn't need the bench to step up with as well as the starters were playing. Ben Brust was the only one to score off the bench with three points – hitting a deep shot right before the shot clock expired. Rob Wilson only got five minutes of playing time and missed the only shot he took, but that preceded a key offensive rebounds he secured. Still, it was a shot Wilson could have made if he just went up stronger with the basketball. Frank Kaminsky played 10 minutes off the bench and he attempted two threes. I know Kaminsky has made a couple of threes so far this year but he hasn't made them consistently. I would much rather see Kaminsky play down low and let him take much higher percentage shots for him instead of launching from the perimeter.

Game MVP: Taylor and Evans. You have to give both Taylor and Evans the MVP for the game with both being instrumental in the victory. Taylor led the way with 27 points and he made his free throws down the stretch. Evans recorded his first double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Evans went 5-for-14 from the floor but he was able to make his free throws down the stretch and grab a couple of critical rebounds in overtime.

Evans overall just played with a lot of effort against the Gophers. Besides his double-double Evans also had three assists, two steals and one blocked shot.

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