INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Bo Ryan did not get a third consecutive Big Ten Championship this year but he did get his first Big Ten Tournament win of his career, as Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 66-52 Friday evening. The Badgers (22-6) will face Michigan State (18-10) in the semifinals at 3:05 p.m.
"It's nice to be playing again tomorrow and we're looking to the next 40 (minutes)," Ryan said.
The Badgers have not won a Big Ten Tournament game since 2000, when they defeated Purdue only to lose to Michigan State in the semifinals. With the exception of senior center Dave Mader, who took a redshirt in the 1999-2000 season, no current Badger has won a Big Ten Tournament game. It's a strange feeling for some.
"It feels good," junior guard Devin Harris said. "I'm not used to this feeling before, especially not under the Big Ten Tournament but we did some of the things we had to do, some of the right things. We didn't turn over the ball that much, we got the ball inside, so we'll have to keep doing the things we do and then stick to the game plan, hopefully we can play … Sunday."
Harris and junior forward Mike Wilkinson were instrumental in advancing Wisconsin to the semifinals. Harris had 21 points, four rebounds and two steals while Wilkinson had a game-high 22 points and four of Wisconsin's 13 steals.
"We got some easy baskets in transition and we had some guys hit some good shots when they were open and if we have guys that knock them down, the key ones when they're open, it leaves some more room for us," Wilkinson said.
Not all of the baskets were easy, however, as Minnesota tried unsuccessfully to force Harris to take difficult shots.
"In the first half, they just threw a couple of different defenders at me, tried to give me some different looks but once I gave the ball up and off, they just tried to deny me, still couldn't get the ball back," Harris said. "It really didn't affect me that much in the first half because guys were getting open looks and getting good looks at the basket."
Junior Adam Boone, a 6-foot-3, 197 pound guard, kept tabs on Harris for part of the game but had difficulty guarding him.
"I think the biggest key you have to do is try to keep the ball out of his hands because when gets it, he's a very difficult player to guard and he can score from deep or he can get it to the basket and he's very good in transition," Boone said. "He's the Big Ten Player of the Year for a reason. I think it's a very difficult job but it's something that you do as a team. Your team has to help out and we did a pretty good job on him today. He hit some very difficult shots. I don't think he had a lot of easy looks and that's a credit to him."
Minnesota head coach Dan Monson made some adjustments and tried adding size by putting sophomore forward Stan Gaines (6-7, 245) and junior guard Brent Lawson (6-4, 208) on Harris to quell him.
"I think Adam Boone played by far his best defense in this tournament and the Penn State game, his last three games and yet, we started with him on him and he immediately got into foul trouble," Monson said. "The thing is that [Harris] just hurts you in so many ways and he's one of those rare players that can get his own shots at any time without (running) any offense and that's extremely hard to guard."
The Gophers had an equally difficult time stopping Wilkinson, who helped the Badgers score 36 points in the paint.
"Wilkinson gives them a second player that can bail Devin out and that he's such a good finisher around the basket and he can catch and shoot for an inside player like that. The combination of the two was very difficult for us today, obviously."
Wisconsin's defense also played a key role, stifling freshman forward Kris Humphries, who averages 22 points and 10 rebounds per game but had only 12 points and nine rebounds against Wisconsin. The Golden Gophers could not get into a groove offensively. With 10 minutes left in the first half, Wisconsin went on a 10-0 run while Minnesota two missed shots and committed four of its 19 turnovers.
"They're just a great defensive team and you've got to be able to make some shots and loosen them up a little bit," Monson said. "Kind of like Purdue, we never had that two or three shots in a row go in and we were down by five and then seven and five and seven and two or three trips down come up empty and we just didn't have great decision-making."
I give them credit for it. I think they did a great job of disrupting us, never letting us get into a flow and make two or three, make a run."
Minnesota concluded its season with a 12-18 record.
Wilkinson, Harris too much for Gophers - game story
Michigan State downs Wildcats - Spartans tip off with UW at 3:05 p.m. CST Saturday
Wisconsin's defense badgers Gophers - Minnesota notes
Photo gallery 1 - Michael Conroy
Photo gallery 2 - Darron Cummings
Photo gallery 3 - Matthew Kutz
Wisconsin 66, Minnesota 52 - line score
Illinois, Michigan advance - Tip off at 12:40 p.m. CST Saturday