Breakdown: No.9 Wisconsin at Minnesota

Trying to fight its way out of a two game losing streak to steal a conference road game, No.9 Wisconsin heads over the border to take on Minnesota, which continues to impress in Richard Pitino's first season. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup.

No.9 Wisconsin (16-2, 3-2 Big Ten) at Minnesota (14-5, 3-3 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Wednesday, January 22, 8 p.m. Central

Arena –Williams Arena (14,625)

Television -Big Ten Network (Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Minnesota leads 101-92 (Minnesota leads 68-31 in Minneapolis)

Last Meeting - Minnesota won, 58-53 in overtime, on February 14, 2013 in Minneapolis

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 13.2 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 11.2 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 13.8 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 9.1 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 13.5 ppg)

Off the Bench

10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 6.8 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 3.6 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.5 ppg)

Minnesota Probable Starters

1 Andre Hollins (6-2 Junior Guard, 16.2 ppg)

4 Deandre Mathieu (5-9 Junior Guard, 11.2 ppg)

10 Oto Osenieks (6-8 Junior Guard, 7.0 ppg)

20 Austin Hollins (6-4 Senior Guard, 11.8 ppg)

55 Elliott Eliason (6-11 Junior Center, 6.8 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 Wally Ellenson (6-6 Sophomore Guard, 1.8 ppg)

13 Maverick Ahanmisi (6-2 Senior Guard, 1.9 ppg)

15 Maurice Walker (6-10 Junior Guard, 4.9 ppg)

24 Joey King (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 6.4 ppg)

30 Malik Smith (6-2 Senior Guard, 9.6 ppg)

Last Time Out

MADISON - Getting ready to steal another victory away from Michigan to continue its streak of dominance, Wisconsin successfully whittled a 15-point Wolverines lead down to two with just under two minutes to go, energizing a capacity crowd that had moaned and groaned for the better part of the evening.

But then Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas got the matchup he wanted to bury the crushing 3-pointer, likely taking Wisconsin top-10 national ranking along with it.

After going 2-for-16 against the Badgers in two meetings a year ago, Stauskus scored a game-high 23 points and hit the key 3-pointer with 48 seconds left to propel unranked Michigan to a 77-70 victory Saturday afternoon, continuing No.3 Wisconsin's misery.

After starting a school-best 16-0, Wisconsin (16-2, 3-2 Big Ten) has dropped its last two and have fallen into a three-way tie for fourth place with Minnesota and Purdue, the two teams UW will play on the road in the next week.

"You have to keep moving forward," said junior Josh Gasser, who led Wisconsin with 16 points before fouling out. "We're in the Big Ten. It's the toughest conference for a reason, and you have to play really well to win games in this league … It's definitely a little different tastes in our mouths now."

The usually stout Wisconsin defense continues to leak. After surviving 41 offensive rebounds and 41 second-chance points in home wins against Iowa and Illinois, Wisconsin allowed Indiana to shoot 51.6 percent in Tuesday's 75-72 loss in Bloomington before watching Michigan (13-4, 5-0 Big Ten) – the conference's best field goal percentage offense at 48.4 percent – shoot 54.7 percent (a season-high against a UW opponent).

"You don't want to lose two in a row, especially on your home court," said Sam Dekker, who finished with 10 points on 5 of 13 and had 10 rebounds. "It's disappointing. We're a little bit embarrassed there when they took it to us in the first half and the beginning of the second half. We didn't respond well to what they did."

Michigan also shot 53.8 percent (7-for-13) from 3-point range, with the crushing shot coming off of Stauskas' hot hand. Wisconsin had chipped a 15-point lead down to one with 1:54 to go, setting the stage for what many thought would be another UW miracle win.

UW already had the banked 3-pointer by Gaser at the buzzer two years ago to steal out a 53-52 win at Ann Arbor, and had the memorable Brust half-court heave to force overtime 11 months ago.

Stauskas didn't allow that to happen. After misfiring from the right wing, Gasser was called for a foul underneath with 1:14 left and Michigan retained possession. That allowed Stauskus another shot, which he buried thanks to a mismatch to give Michigan a 71-67 lead with 48.2 seconds.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Last Meeting

Last Time Out

MINNEAPOLIS (BadgerNation) - Shooting only 30.5 percent from the floor, including a dismal 10 percent in overtime, No.20 Wisconsin's climb toward the top of the conference stalled with a 58-53 overtime loss to a desperate Minnesota team at Williams Arena.

Freshman Sam Dekker led Wisconsin with 14 points and junior Ben Brust – fresh off being named the conference's co-player of the week – added 11, but it was a lack of offense from others and the miscues that put Wisconsin (17-8, 8-4 Big Ten) in a three-way tie for third place in the Big Ten, two games behind No.1 Indiana and No.8 Michigan State.

The Badgers had never played three straight overtime games until Thursday night, but failed to execute the types of things down the stretch that pushed the Badgers into the national rankings for the first time since late November.

Against Iowa and then-No.3 Michigan, Wisconsin was able to fight out of inconsistent shooting to make a big shot or a big defensive stop in the extra frame.

The game even had an eerie feel to last year's meeting north of the border. In that contest, the Badgers led by as many as 13 points, but Wisconsin missed nine straight shots to end regulation. The Badgers recovered that time, scoring 15 of their 17 overtime points from the line in a 68-61 victory. No such luck this time with Wisconsin finishing 1-for-10 in the extra session and attempted just four free throws.

When it boiled down to it, the scoring issues went back farther than the Badgers' fourth overtime period in eight days.

After Ryan Evans's free throw put Wisconsin up 49-43 with 5:08 remaining, the Badgers didn't score until the 1:20 mark of overtime, an 8:48 scoreless drought. In the final 15 possessions, the Badgers finished with only four points.

Evans was part of the problem, as the senior finished 2-for-8 from the field and from the free throw line. In his last eight games, Evans is 26-for-77 (33.8 percent) from the floor and 17-for-41 (41.5 percent) from the free throw line.

"If he just makes his free throws we're out of here," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "We're on the plane already. Come on, what am I going to do with the guy? You knew (the misses) were going to get us one game."

In the final 5:08 over regulation, Wisconsin went 0-for-3 on free throws, 0-for-2 on threes, 0-for-4 on twos and four turnovers, none being more critical than the one senior Mike Bruesewitz made.

After drawing a charge with 22.6 seconds left, giving the Badgers an opportunity to push its lead to two possessions, Bruesewitz made the mental mistake of moving on the baseline when his initial options were covered. That resulted in a change of possession and a tie game after Joe Coleman sank two free throws.

"I messed it up," said Bruesewitz, who scored all five of his points in the first half. "I knew I shouldn't have moved … I just took one too many steps.

"We had the game in hand, and I messed up."

Bruesewitz wasn't alone in sharing the self pity. Wisconsin still had a chance to win the game with 17.6 seconds left on the clock, but Traevon Jackson's one-man show didn't execute. Trying a rub screen with Berggren, Jackson tried multiple times to draw a foul and forced up a prayer of a shot that didn't come close to winning the game for Wisconsin.

After that, Minnesota (18-7, 6-6) scored the first five points of overtime and never trailed with Andre Hollins scoring nine of his game-high 21 in extra period.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Series Notes

Bo Ryan owns a 16-5 (.762) record against Minnesota with a 6-4 mark at Williams Arena.

The Badgers have won 16 of the last 21 against the Gophers and 5 of the last 6. UW and UM split a pair of meetings last season with both teams winning on their home floor.

Each of the last 2 UW-UM meetings at Williams Arena have gone to overtime with the teams splitting.

Minnesota is averaging just 56.8 points per game over the last 10 meetings.

The Badgers' roster has 2 players from the state of Minnesota, both of whom are redshirting this season: junior Jordan Smith (Orono) and freshman Riley Dearring (Minnetonka).

The Badgers will be facing first-year head coaches Chris Collins (Northwestern) and Richard Pitino (Minnesota) this season. After the win over Collin's Wildcats (1/2), Bo Ryan's teams are 25-5 (.833) against Big Ten coaches in their first season.

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin lost rare back-to-back games last week. In the Bo Ryan era (since 2001-02 season), the Badgers have only had 4 losing streaks of 3 games or more.

During Big Ten play, the Badgers have 6 players ranked among the conference's top 30 scorers. No other team in the Big Ten has more than 3.

? Six different players have led Wisconsin in scoring in a game this season. In fact all 5 UW starters have led the team in scoring at least twice.

Wisconsin leads the Big Ten shooting 39.2 percent from deep. UW shot 33.0 percent from 3-point range a year ago, good for 7th in the Big Ten.

Minnesota Notes

In facing the ninth-ranked Badgers, Minnesota concludes a stretch of four-straight games against opponents in the Top 15 of the Associated Press poll. It has happened just once before, when in 1987, the Gophers played #4 Iowa, #11 Illinois, #7 Purdue, and #2 Indiana in succession, going 0-4 in the stretch.

The Gophers lead the B1G as a team with an overall free-throw percentage of .750 (339-452). That is currently the highest team FT percentage in the history of the program.

Pitino led FIU to 18 wins, the fourth-most in program history, and its first appearance in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game. FIU finished with 11 conference wins on the season, the most by a Panther team since joining the Sun Belt Conference.FIU had not had a winning season since 1999-2000, and in the three seasons before Pitino's hiring, FIU had posted a combined record of 26-65.

Minnesota junior forward Maurice Walker played last season in excess of 300 pounds. Since the hiring of Pitino and his staff, Walker has shed 65 pounds and is currently listed at 250 lbs.

Prediction

After dealing with four straight teams with solid post presences, Wisconsin is getting a taste of that again with Minnesota, but the way the Gophers present themselves is far different than anything UW has seen in conference play to this point.

Bringing a defensive system predicated on pressing and being aggressive, the Gophers have managed 158 steals through games (8.3 per game), a figure that leads the Big Ten and allowed them to register the biggest win of the season over then-No.11 Ohio State.

Beating the Buckeyes by 10 last Thursday, Minnesota aggressive style registered them 12 steals, forced 10 turnovers in the second half and limited the Buckeyes to 18-for-51 from the floor, (35.3 percent).

After Pitino's 2012-13 FIU squad led the Sun Belt Conference and finished in the top-10 nationally in steals, averaging nearly 10.0 per game, Minnesota has seen guards DeAndre Mathieu and Austin Hollins tied for the team lead, and both rank fifth in the Big Ten with 35 steals (1.8 per game).

Throw in Andre Hollins' team-best 16.2 points per game and the Gophers' guard play is leading the charge.

"He came into a situation where the guard play was a strength," said UW coach Bo Ryan, as Minnesota also leads the league in free throw percentage (.750), while ranking fourth in 3-pointers made per game (7.6) and assists (14.2).

"So that's quickness, that's experience with the (Hollins'). Both of them can stretch defenses. So, you know, you can pressure. He's got some bodies that play similar that are athletic enough to get the job done for pressure that they want."

Mathieu, along with Malik Smith, have been a pair of transfers who have fit in well with the established foundation that current Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith left behind for Pitino. Mathieu is second on the team in scoring in B1G games, averaging 10.5 points per game, while Smith is the team and conference's top free-throw shooter (.878). Mathieu also leads the Gophers in assists (84) and tied for the team lead in steals (35).

The Gophers put up those kinds of numbers by mixing defenses, traps and pressures, making opponent guard play vital.

"You just got to play with the confidence that you know what's going to be next, because you're going to read and react according to what the defense does," said Ryan. "But if you don't feel comfortable, that's when people really struggle. So we've got to get our guys to believe that, ‘OK, if we get these angles, if we see the court, meaning get 45 degree angles from one another, things like that, trapping can be a bit tougher."

Guard play will be pivotal in this game, which should be fine for Brust and Gasser. Jackson, who has up and down in conference play, will need to play much better.

The only advantage Jackson has is that he averaged eight points in two meetings with the Gophers last season, not to mention hitting UW's final two baskets, including a game-winning 15-foot jumper with just 2.1 seconds remaining, in a home win last season.

Wisconsin also needs a more consistent, aggressive performance from Dekker, who also fared well against Minnesota last season by averaging 12.0 ppg and 5.0 rpg in the two meetings.

"You better be confident in your abilities - obviously, not overconfident because there's never a reason to be that - but you got to believe that you can go get it done," said Ryan. "If I have guys that are going on the road and going, oh, my goodness, we've got to -- no. I think I've got guys that like playing home and away because, if it you don't, you're not going to be very successful. It's a mindset."

Wisconsin has done a good job masking some of its problems over the past two weeks, but the Badgers have allowed too many teams to find their comfort zones. Indiana had no problem driving into the paint with ease and Michigan wasn't challenged enough on mid-range jump shots. If Wisconsin's guards don't outplay Minnesota's veterans, this is going to be a long night.

A long time ago I thought Wisconsin was going to go 1-1 this week, well before this losing streak. Wisconsin is favored by 2.5 points but I am going with the home team by four. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Worgull's Record: 13-5

Points off Prediction: 150 (8.3 per game)


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