After having an ugly shooting game against Penn State, Wisconsin turned things around against the Minnesota defense, shooting better than 50.4 percent in the first half and finishing 46.9 percent (23-for-49) overall.
The combination of Bronson Koenig and Frank Kaminsky was dangerous, as Minnesota really had no answer for either of them. Kaminsky led the two with 21 points, his 10th game this season where he has reached at least 20, and Koenig scored a career-high 17 points, 10 of which came in the first half. Koenig and Kaminsky were the only two players to hit multiple 3-pointers in the game and two combined to hit 5-for-9 from the perimeter. The rest of Wisconsin finished 1-for-8. Hayes was the third leading scorer with nine points on 4-for-8 shooting in 35 minutes.
Josh Gasser finished the game with seven points on 3-for-5 shooting in 37 minutes, making him the third UW player to go over 1,000 points this season and makes him only the second player in school history to record over 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 250 assists (Michael Finley). Gasser was able to reach 1,000 points off of a layup at the end of the first half.
Minnesota had shown the ability to consistently record steals and create turnovers, averaging 10.3 steals and 18 turnovers a content, but Wisconsin limited its mistakes and took away possessions from the Gophers. Minnesota finished with a season-low four steals and only registered eight turnovers, leading to only eight points of offense.
The bench for Wisconsin was better than it some previous games with a total of four points. Duje Dukan and Vitto Brown each had two points on a combined 2-for-5 shooting from the field, but both players missed opportunity to go to the hoop strong with the ball to convert at the rim or draw fouls. Brown, Dukan and Zak Showalter all were able to register a rebound, as the three combined for five of the teams 27 rebounds.
Minnesota shot 46.3 percent (25-for-54) from the field but the Badgers kept the Gophers’ top two leading scorers - Andre Hollins and Maurice Walker - below their scoring average. Hollins (15.0 ppg) was held to two points on 1-for-8 shooting from the field. Gasser did a very good job of consistently limiting him and contesting his shots from the floor. Hollins reached double digits over the last nine games, averaging 20.2 points per game on that stretch.
Kaminsky was able to get the better of Walker (11.7 ppg), who was held to eight points. Minnesota still ended up with 34 points around the basket but helping limit Walker was important to preventing that total from being any higher. Kaminsky finished the game with three of Wisconsin’s nine blocks, which tied a season high.
Wisconsin holding Minnesota’s two best scorers below its average meant other players had to step up and try and keep the Gophers in the game. Nate Mason, Deandre Mathieu and Carlos Morris all finished the game with 11 points, but Mason was the only starter for the Gophers to score in double digits. Mathieu and Morris scored 22 of the 24 Minnesota bench points.Wisconsin limited the Gophers to 3-for-9 (33.3 percent) from three. More impressively, considering the amount of shots UW contested, the Badgers committed a season-low seven fouls. Minnesota missed its lone free throw attempt, making the Gophers just the fourth team in the Bo Ryan tenure to fail to make a free throw.
Wisconsin found good balance on offense and were able to consistently take what the Gophers gave them on defense. Wisconsin scored 20 points in the paint, scored 18 points from the 3-point line and consistently got to the free throw line both halves, as they averaged seven attempts between the first and second. The Badgers went 11-for-14 from the line. Koenig went 6-for-6 from the line and rebounded after shooting 2-for-10 in the win at Penn State Wednesday.
Koenig came out and found an offensive rhythm early. He was able to drive to the basket and was able to create space for himself where he could hit a jump shot. It’s also got to the point that it’s become a surprise when Koenig commits multiple turnovers in a game, as the sophomore had two miscues.
While the Badgers were being secure with the ball, Wisconsin forced its second opponent in three games into double-digit turnovers, as Minnesota finished the game with 11. Wisconsin only recorded two steals in the game but one came from Brown in the low post. It was good to see Brown play strong post defense against Walker, as the sophomore swung around Walker to step in front of the pass to record a steal.
Minnesota won the rebounding battle, 29-27, but could only convert seven offensive rebounds into six points. Hayes seven rebounds was a team high.
Game MVP: Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky has started to get himself back into an offensive rhythm as he overpowered Walker at times by using one of his vast array of post moves. The senior scored 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the first half that helped set the tone and take an early lead.
With Minnesota lingering around late in the second half, it was Kaminsky who scored four straight points off of transition lay ups to beat Minnesota’s press. He also once again demonstrated his passing ability, as he was one of three players to finish the game with three assists. Finishing the game 9-for-13 from the field, Kaminsky’s inside-outside game continues to make him the hardest matchup in the Big Ten and maybe the country.