Date/Time -Saturday, February 21, 11 a.m. Central
Arena –Kohl Center (17,249)
Television -ESPN (Bob Wischusen and Dan Dakich)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Minnesota leads 102-94 (Wisconsin leads 61-33 in Madison)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 83-57, on March 14, 2014 in Indianapolis
Wisconsin Probable Starters
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 12.3 ppg)
15 Sam Dekker (6-9 Junior Forward, 13.4 ppg)
21 Josh Gasser (6-4 Senior Guard, 7.2 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 7.4 ppg)
44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Senior Forward, 17.5 ppg)
Off the Bench
3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 2.4 ppg)
13 Duje Dukan (6-10 Senior Forward, 5.1 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Sophomore Guard, 2.2 ppg)
Minnesota Probable Starters
1 Andre Hollins (6-2 Senior Guard, 15.0 ppg)
4 Deandre Mathieu (5-9 Senior Guard, 8.3 ppg)
15 Maurice Walker (6-10 Senior Forward, 11.7 ppg)
20 Charles Buggs (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 3.8 ppg)
24 Joey King (6-9 Junior Forward, 9.0 ppg)
Off the Bench
2 Nate Mason (6-1 Freshman Guard, 9.5 ppg)
11 Carlos Morris (6-5 Junior Guard, 11.0 ppg)
55 Elliott Eliason (6-11 Senior Center, 3.3 ppg)
Last MeetingINDIANAPOLIS – Senior leadership is imperative to survive March’s madness. Wisconsin will be in for a deep postseason run if it has senior guard Ben Brust playing at his best.
Brust recorded a career-high in scoring with 29 points, leading No.12 Wisconsin into the Big Ten tournament semifinals with an 83-57 victory over Minnesota.
Wisconsin (26-6) shot 64 percent in the second half – 54.5 percent for the game – and put four players in double figures, but the Badgers’ well-balanced offense didn’t need much help aside from Brust.
“As long as we get the win, that’s all that matters here in March,” said Brust, who went 8-for-15 from the floor and 9-for-9 from the free throw line. “I came out and things started falling I just wanted to play with energy.”
Wisconsin’s scoring is often spread throughout the stat sheet, with four of its starters averaging double-figure totals. Yet, the Badgers had starters Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson go scoreless, and got a season-high 38 bench points thanks to Nigel Hayes’ 15 points (13 in the second half) and Bronson Koenig’s career-high 14.
However, Friday's victory was all about one guy—the Badgers’ senior leader.
“[Brust is] a hard matchup for some guys defensively because of the way he moves,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.
Although Wisconsin delivered its highest scoring output since January 8, stifling defense is what helped key the victory. Minnesota (20-13) was held to just 32.8 percent from the field. The Golden Gophers were led by DeAndre Mathieu’s 18 points, while Joey King chipped in with 14. However, their offense was relatively quiet for most of the game, since UW limited Gophers’ leading scorer Andre Hollins (14.4 ppg) to eight points on 2-for-14 shooting.
The outcome was never in question for Wisconsin. The closest Minnesota would cut the lead in the second half was eight, coming with 17:46 remaining. When the Gophers made a 7-0 push to cut the lead to 10 with just over nine minutes to go, it was Brust connecting on a long three-pointer that help cushion the lead. Wisconsin finished the game outscoring the Gophers by a 33-17 mark.
-Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com
Last Time Out
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. - Sam Dekker dominated an ugly shooting night on both sides by scoring a career-high 22 points, helping No.5 Wisconsin maintain its healthy Big Ten advantage with a 55-47 victory over Penn State at the Bryce Jordan Center
On a night where Wisconsin shot 39.2 percent from the field and 5-for-22 from 3-point range, Dekker was the steady influence. He scored 13 points in the first half, scoring three buckets (two dunks) by slashing to the basket and hit a pair of 3-point shots, scored four points on an 8-2 run to start the second half and helped limit Penn State’s frontcourt – Brandon Taylor and Jordan Dickerson – to nine points on 4-for-11 shooting.
On UW’s nine game winning streak, Dekker has increased his points per game from 12.3 to 13.4 per game, including scoring at least 20 points in two of the last three games.
“That’s what we need to have him to do,” said Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard of Dekker, who also had a five-point possession in the first half. “We need other guys to do that, too.”
Despite going 4-for-12 from the field and missing 8 for his last nine shots, senior Frank Kaminsky grinded out 16 points by going 7-for-8 from the free throw line. Nigel Hayes added nine points and a game-high 13 rebounds, including five on the offensive boards that led to 10 second-chance points.
That production made up for a night where UW’s starting guards – Josh Gasser and Bronson Koenig – combined to go 3-for-15 and 1-for-10 from 3-point range.
“That’s a good sign, not from a shooting standpoint but we’re able to find other ways to get it done,” said Gard.
Senior guard D.J. Newbill lived up to his billing as a dynamite scorer – finishing with 29 points on 13-for-21 shooting – but got little help from his teammates. Only four other Penn State players scored, none above seven points, and the Nittany Lions bench – averaging 19.7 points – had only one 3-point field goal.
Averaging 21.5 points in four previous games against the Badgers, Newbill scored 61.7 percent of Penn State’s points, the highest percentage of a team's points scored by a major-conference player this season, according to ESPN State and Info.
Wisconsin went 9 minutes, 21 seconds between field goals in the first half, a stretch where it shot 1-for-13 and settled for jump shots, but Penn State could only manage to go on a 7-4 run. The Badgers also had a two stretches of over three minutes without field goals in the second half, but never saw their lead dip below five.
Bo Ryan owns an 18-6 (.750) record against Minnesota overall, including a sparkling 10-1 mark against the Gophers at the Kohl Center.The Badgers have won six of the last eight games against the Gophers, including two of three last season. Wisconsin has won 16 of the last 17 games against Minnesota in Madison. In fact, the Gophers are a mere 1-13 overall at the Kohl Center, pulling out a 78-74 overtime win in 2009. Prior to that, Minnesota’s last win in Madison came in 1994 at the UW Field House.
During conference play, the Badgers lead the Big Ten with a +13.2 scoring margin. No other team in the league is higher than +7.1.
Wisconsin has only trailed in the second half of four games all season, and only once during Big Ten play (at Rutgers). The Badgers’ only second-half deficits were in their losses to Duke and Rutgers and in wins over Buffalo and Georgetown.
A preseason All-Big Ten selection, Dekker has scored in double figures in 15 of the last 16 games and is averaging 14.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game during Big Ten play. Through 12 conference games, Dekker is shooting 53.7 percent from the field (6th in B1G).
In Big Ten play, Hayes has increased his scoring production, averaging 12.6 ppg and shooting 44.0 percent (11-for-25) from 3-point range. His 44.0 percent shooting from long range would rank 9th in the Big Ten, but he falls two made treys short of qualifying.
Wisconsin has made a total of 90 more free throws than its opponents have attempted on the season. The Badgers are 402-534 (.753) at the stripe, while foes are just 210-312 (.673).
Hollins is averaging 20.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in his last nine contests (51.7 FG%, 49.3 3FG%). On Sunday against the Hoosiers, he posted his eighth 20-point game of the season with a team-high 23 points.
Over the last seven games, senior point guard DeAndre Mathieu has dished 22 assists with just three turnovers, an assist/turnover ratio of +7.3.
Hollins is the only Gopher with over 1,500 career points and 300 career assists.
In Big Ten play, Hollins is averaging a team high 16.3 points per game (B1G: T-6th) while Walker is posting a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game (B1G: 7th) and 1.9 steals per game in B1G games, leading the Big Ten.
Mathieu leads the B1G in steals while junior Carlos Morris (2.0) and freshman Nate Mason (1.9) are second and third in steals, respectively.
When a reporter asked Gary Close to look back five years ago, Wisconsin’s veteran assistant coach was worried that his memory would be hazy. When the topic of the conversation was his initial impressions of Josh Gasser, the memories of toughness and character started flooding back.
It was easy for Close to remember considering Gasser hasn’t changed much in the last five seasons.
Whether it’s been defense, rebounding, diving on the floor and even a touch of scoring here and there, Gasser has been a driving force for the Badgers over his career … and that’s just in practice.
“He figured it out pretty quickly, maybe as quickly as anybody, especially at the guard position,” said Close. “You watch him in practice, literally, he never takes a possession off. He doesn’t take a drill off. Every drill he does he does full speed. As a coach you really admire that.”
It’s a reason why Gasser was an impact player from the beginning. In his first collegiate game he scored 21 points with a team-high nine rebounds off the bench. He eventually earned a role in UW’s starting lineup, started 30 games, the only triple-double in school history at Northwestern and a career that has allowed him to make a tangible impact.
How much of an impact is Gasser on the lineup? UW is 105-29 (.784) with him and went 23-12 (.657) in the year he was out with a torn ACL.
“Josh is smart, and Josh knew right away what he had to do to give himself the best chance to get on the floor,” said Close. “He’s tough enough and he’s a good enough of player where he went out and did it. His toughness and his basketball intelligence, you could almost tell right from the get go, and he was willing to put his game and butt on the line. Those are the guys you win with.”
In his career, few people have won as much as Gasser. Along with senior Duje Dukan, Gasser has tied the school record for wins by a class, having been a part of 105 wins during their UW careers (2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 - redshirted during 2013).
“It’s definitely good company to be in,” said Gasser. “Not many guys have the privilege to play as many minutes, score as many points, but championships and making deep runs in the tournament is really what it’s all about.”
A win against Minnesota Saturday could be a historic one for Gasser. Already UW’s all-time starts leader (130), Gasser is four points away from joining Michael Finley as the only Badgers to post 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 250 assists.
“It’s definitely something you don’t expect coming in, but something that you look back on when you’re career is over and be pretty proud of,” said Gasser. “I was just watching a game from my freshman year, and I feel a little older now than when I was 18, 19 years old.”
That experience has provided dividends this season for the Badgers, who are closing in on their first Big Ten title in seven years. In 13 Big Ten games, Gasser has committed only five turnovers in 437 minutes (one every 87.4 minutes), ball security that will be important Saturday.
Hollins is Minnesota’s best player and does a lot of things for the Gophers, from 3-point shooting, dribble drives, free throw shooting and defense to make him one of the better guards in the league. Mathieu is one of the quicker plays Wisconsin will see this season, Mason is one of the more underrated freshmen in the league and Walker has really established himself as a solid, post-up player who has started to push out his range.
Those players and the rest of the Gophers generate their offense based on an in-your-face defense, which ranks first in the Big Ten and third nationally with 10.8 steals per game. UW entered the week No. 1 nationally in fewest turnovers per game (7.4).
“The thing about pressure defense is it may not look like it’s doing something and then all of a sudden, bam, you get three, four turnovers in a row or (they) get teams out of sync and be real disruptive,” said Close. “You’ve got to make them pay for it if you can.”
Northwestern did on Wednesday. Taking what the Gophers gave them, the Wildcats mixed transition with base offense to attack the basket and get points at the rim or take perimeter jumpers. That resulted in 15 3-pointers and only 10 turnovers.
The key for Wisconsin against that same defense yielded a simple answer from Gasser, keep doing what the Badgers have been doing all season, which is utilizing all the fundamentals they’ve been taught under Ryan.
“We’ve seen it before,” said Gasser of Minnesota’s pressure. “We played them three times last year, so we’ve seen them…We haven’t seen it this year at the level or extent they’re going to bring it at us, but we’ve just got to be mentally ready for it. I think we will be.”
Winners of nine straight and being dominant at home, Wisconsin should make it 10 straight over its neighbors to the north with a 16-point victory.
Worgull's Record: 24-2
Points off Prediction: 192 (7.4 per game)