The Gophers' high-pressure defense clearly flustered Badger ball handlers, forcing 18 turnovers. Minnesota swiped the ball from Wisconsin 10 times, consistent with their league-leading season average pace of 10.5 steals per game.
Despite the convincing victory, the offense looked stagnant at times. After pushing the lead to 22 early in the second half, the Badgers managed only one point in the next five minutes of play while turning the ball over three times.
That small stretch was quite similar to the middle of the second half against Indiana when the Badgers saw a 20-point lead cut to seven in less than seven minutes. Both times the dependable swing offense broke down, ball movement stopped, and players either turned the ball over or were forced to take tough shots with the shot clock running down.
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan attributed the sloppy play to lack of familiarity with the situation, rather than a loss of focus with a big lead.
The players may have had a different take on the situation and admitted some carelessness.
"But we can't get away with that," senior Brian Butch said after the game of using complacency as an excuse. "We just have to keep on playing hard and keep on trying to do the right things."
Despite the similarities, the scoring drought did not allow Minnesota back into the game as it did against Indiana, and the Gophers were never able to get closer than 14 for the rest of the contest.
Defense shines again
The Badgers turned in another gem of a defensive effort Sunday afternoon. After holding the Big Ten's most explosive offensive team, Indiana, to 49 points on Thursday, Ryan's team kept the Gophers nearly 27 points below their season average.
"I thought our guys stuck to the task well," Ryan said after the game of their defensive effort. "I've got to give my team credit for playing well together."
Senior center Brian Butch agreed.
"We just played hard defense," Butch said. "Our defense and our unselfishness lead to some really good things. I don't think it was just one guy that shut them down. Our defense is based on five guys, and we are pretty good when we get five guys all together."
Butch and the rest of the Badger big men did a particularly good job on Minnesota center Spencer Tollackson defensively and on the defensive glass. Tollackson, the Gopher's second leading rebounder, was only able to grab one rebound on the afternoon.
Already having five 20-point scorers in five straight conference games this season, the Badgers sought to return to their scoring balance against the Gophers.
Undeterred by the pressure, Wisconsin's unselfishness led to 12 assists – five by junior Joe Krabbenhoft alone – and three players (Butch, Hughes and Landry) scoring double-digits.
"We are a really unselfish team," said Butch. "Nobody tries to go out there and get 30 points. It comes within the offense and we all play within each other."
Homecoming for Leuer
In recent years, Bo Ryan and his staff have been known to recruit some of their talent from the Gopher state in names like Kammron Taylor and Kevin Gullickson. The most recent Minnesota resident turned Badger is freshman Jon Leuer who played his first game in front of his former home crowd. Leuer is from Long Lake, MN, less than 20 miles from the University of Minnesota campus.
Leuer relished the chance for a homecoming but maintained the right priorities.
"It was fun," Leuer said. "But we got the win, that is the most important thing."
Advice from Big Brother
Leuer was not the only Badger with family member in the stands, as Marcus Landry's older brother, Carl, was in the stands behind the Wisconsin bench.
Carl, who plays for the NBA's Houston Rockets, was in town to play the Minnesota Timberwolves and liked what he saw from his younger brother.
"He's playing real good," Carl, who is averaging 7.3 for Houston, told reporters. "The Badgers are going to be tough with him (Marcus) giving them points."
Benjamin Worgull Contributed to this Report