Game Day Grades - Minnesota

A vocal Badgers student section, a frontcourt clicking on all cylinders and the 3-point shot falling proved to be a solid combination for No.6 Wisconsin, which won the outright Big Ten title with a 78-63 victory over Minnesota at Williams Arena. BadgerNation hands out the grades,

Offense: A

For the second consecutive game Wisconsin hit at least half its shots, finishing the game 28-for-56 (50 percent) from the field. It marked the 12th time this season the Badgers have shot at least 50 percent. Red hot from the field early, Wisconsin shot 63 percent in the first half but saw that number dip to 37.9 percent on 11-for-29 shooting from the field.

The main reason Wisconsin was able to shoot such a good percentage in the first half was the combination of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. The duo combined for 30 of Wisconsin’s season-high 44 first-half points and helped the Badgers score 18 of its 32 points in the paint in the first half.

Kaminsky finished with a game-high 25 points and Dekker added 20, his third 20-point game this year and two away from his career high. Nigel Hayes was third on the team with 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting. Bronson Koenig and Josh Gasser each finished with eight points on a combined 6-for-11 shooting.

Despite struggling to shoot the ball from 3-point range on the road in Big Ten play this year, Wisconsin came out firing and went 10-for-20 from the perimeter, its best 3-point percentage this year in a conference road game. Dekker was the only starter for Wisconsin who failed to make multiple 3-pointers. Even Duje Dukan broke a long slump by hitting a 3-pointer in the first half for UW’s only bench points.

The success Wisconsin had down low against Minnesota did help open up a variety of good looks on offense that the Badgers capitalized on with solid passing. Wisconsin registered 18 assists on its 28 made field goals.

With the Gophers doing a better job of clogging the paint in the second half, it did force Wisconsin to settle for more jump shots that didn’t get the same type of friendly bounces. The Badgers only managed to go 3-for-10 from three in the second half.

Defense: A

After holding Minnesota’s duo of Andre Hollins and Maurice Walker to 10 points in the first matchup, Hollins and Walker didn’t fare much better. The two combined for 12 points on a combined 5-for-16 from the field. The only starter that was able to reach double digits in scoring was Nate Mason who finished with 12 points in 32 minutes of work. The Gophers went 25-for-61 (41 percent) from the field.

Mason, who was 6-for-12 from the field and 3-for-5 from three, was really the only Gopher to find success in different ways against Wisconsin. Even though Mason led Minnesota in scoring, and the Gophers got 11 points from Carlos Morris off the bench, Koenig made sure the scoring was sporadic, preventing the points from coming in bunches to help the Badgers keep control.

Although Kaminsky limited Walker to seven points, he did allow him to collect six of his 11 rebounds on the offensive glass. Walker can matchup with Kaminsky in terms of his frame and was able to get better position on him at times, which led to him winning rebounding battles. Overall Minnesota was able to collect 12 offensive rebounds in the game, which translated into 10 second-chance points.

Wisconsin was able to force the Gophers into eight turnovers, three of which came off of steals (Kaminsky 2, Gasser 1). The Badgers were able to capitalize Minnesota’s turnovers into 12 points, which was the most points off of a team’s turnover since the Illinois game (16 points). Although Morris and Mason led Minnesota in points, they also led the Gophers in turnovers with three and two, respectively.

With Minnesota trying to chip away at the lead in the second half, it was important that Wisconsin didn’t foul to help the Gophers get scoring opportunities with the clock stopped. Wisconsin delivered by only committing 11 team fouls and limiting the home team to only 7-for-9 from the free throw line.

Minnesota finished the game with 30 points in the paint, and Wisconsin did occasionally allow Gopher guards to drive the lane at times, but the Badgers did well protecting the rim to finish the game with five blocks. Gasser finished with a game-high two and Kaminsky, Koenig and Dukan each had one.

Overall: A

Wisconsin’s hot shooting helped the Badgers build a lead as big as 20 points in the first half, but the Gophers managed to the cut the lead in half going into the break thanks to the Badgers committing three turnovers in a five possession span. Even with those miscues, Wisconsin finished the game with nine turnovers, the most it’s had since the conference opener but nonetheless solid on the road against the Gophers’ pressure defense.

Minnesota was able to cut off passing lanes at times to register five steals and covert the nine turnovers into 10 points. Koenig led Wisconsin with a season-high three turnovers. This is the first game where Koenig had more turnovers than assists.

Wisconsin did well of avoiding scoring droughts for the majority of the game, with its longest one being 4 minutes, 26 seconds. Thanks to solid defense, however, UW’s lead didn’t fluctuate between buckets. Even though Minnesota cut the lead to single digits in the second half, UW never let the lead slip below six, was able to often limit the Gophers to one shot attempt per possession and score 22 points on 8-for-14 from the field over the final 9:45.

After losing the rebounding battle to Minnesota in the first meeting, the board battle finished at a 33-33 stalemate. Wisconsin collected nine offensive rebounds, with Dekker and Koenig each finished the game with three offensive rebounds. Despite providing the offense second chances, the Badgers could only manage seven points off said opportunities.

Game MVP: Frank Kaminsky. There’s really not much else that can be said about Kaminsky. He once again put on another impressive performance on offense to finish with 25 points on 10-for-15 from the field in 40 minutes. He was able to impact the game in multiple ways when he wasn’t scoring, finishing with six rebounds and a career-high seven assists.

Kaminsky had a good connection going with Dekker, twice hitting the junior on back door cuts that led to lay ups. Kaminsky’s ability to get his teammates open helped Wisconsin shoot a good percentage and his versatility to step out and hit shots on the perimeter proved to be a difficult matchup for Walker.

This was Kaminsky’s first career game with at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, and the first Wisconsin player to accomplish it since Jordan Taylor in December 2010.

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