Game Day Grades: Minnesota

MADISON - Showing more punch offensively and more aggression defensively than it did in the first meeting against the Gophers, No.21 Wisconsin increased its winning streak to three with a 78-70 victory over Minnesota Thursday. BadgerNation hands out the grades.

Offense: A-

Wisconsin recovered from a slow start and an early seven-point deficit to finish the game 21-for-43 (48.8 percent) from the field. Ben Brust led all scorers with 20 points, Frank Kaminsky had 17 points, Nigel Hayes had 15 and Sam Dekker chipped in with 10.

Wisconsin was able to strike a balance of an inside-outside game by finishing with 18 points in the paint and going 6-for-15 from three. That balance kept the Gophers' defense honest and had to respect all aspects of the Wisconsin offense.

After struggling to take care of the basketball against Michigan State, the Badgers returned to their normal ways with only seven turnovers. Despite Hayes finding success around the hoop, he did have a team high three turnovers. In one instance Hayes didn't see the ball was coming his way and fumbled it out of bounds. Even with the miscues, the Gophers were only able to convert the seven mistakes into one point.

The Badgers' aggressiveness to the low block caused them to be frequent visitors to the free throw line, making it to the charity stripe 36 times and knocking down 30 of those attempts. Kaminsky got there a team high nine times and made all nine of his free throws.

Defense: B

The Badgers were able to do a much better job of defending the paint against Minnesota, only allowing 20 points in the paint opposed to the 48 they gave up in the first meeting. One of the reasons for that was the Badgers were much more aggressive and were able to challenge the Gophers better.

Mo Walker was one of the players who found success against the Badgers the first time around, but the Badgers continuously attacked Walker in the paint. The results were Walker being limited to 15 minute because of foul trouble and only five points.

While the Badgers couldn't find an answer for Andre Hollins in the second half, scoring 16 of his 22 points off open looks on screens, Josh Gasser did a good job of keeping contain of Hollins in the first half. Malik Smith was the only other Minnesota player in double digits with 14 points. The Gophers finished the game 23-for-51 (45.1 percent) from the field.

Wisconsin was able to consistently able to supply the pressure on defense and record seven steals in the game. The Badgers did well cutting off passing lanes and trying to force the Gophers into a more difficult passes. The Badgers forced Minnesota into 13 turnovers, which they were able to convert into 13 points.

Overall: B+

Wisconsin had chances to put away the Gophers in the second half and throughout the game but couldn't find a way to do it. The Gophers responded to being down 15 points late by twice cutting the lead to five in the final two minutes; unable to get closer due to UW making its free throws.

It wasn't a pretty game by Kaminsky but he was able to find a way to be somewhat effective on offense, finishing the game with 17 points. But at the same time, Kaminsky seemed hesitant on offense. In two instances he had favorable matchups in post but decided to throw the ball out to the perimeter. The first time his pass intended for Traevon Jackson sailed over the point guard's head and resulted in a turnover. The second instance almost resulted in the same result but Brust was able to recover the pass.

Once again Hayes put together a nice game and just continues to grow. You can tell with each game his confidence is improving. Like he has done since Big Ten play began, Hayes was able to find his way to the free throw line. Hayes has struggled at times with his free throws, but went 5-for-6 in the game. His also showed what he could do on defense with his length, recording two steals in the game.

Game MVP: Ben Brust. After a terrible shooting game against Michigan State, Brust bounced back with 20 points on 5-for-7 shooting. More impressively he went 4-for-4 from three. Brust was also able to grab six rebounds, had one assist and one steal.


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