Even UW head coach Bo Ryan, who has put extremely high emphasis on free-throw shooting over 24 years of coaching, will be the first to admit it's not a glamorous way to win basketball games.
"Discipline is extremely important and I demand that," Ryan said, "which anybody that's ever been to our practices understands."
On Saturday, Minnesota came into the Kohl Center and hung with No. 15 Wisconsin for about 32 minutes, as the game was tied at 45 with 8:44 to go. But when the Badgers started working inside and got to the free-throw line, they got the points necessary there to reel off a 16-3 run and put away the Gophers.
During that streak, UW had just one bucket – a Michael Flowers three-pointer. The other 13 points came while everyone was standing flat on the floor watching somebody in a white-and-red jersey take foul shots.
And make them.
"We've been working on free-throw shooting in practice, where we're not allowed to leave practice until we hit four out of five," guard Jason Bohannon said. "We're getting our heads into game situations, and it's paying off."
UW was 17-of-21 from the line in the second half, and 25-for-33 overall. The Gophers finished 12-of-20, and had just four makes on seven attempts after halftime.
"I think (opponents) get frustrated a little bit," UW center Brian Butch said. "There's been plenty of times I've been at the free-throw line, and someone says, ‘did you pay the refs? How are you guys getting (to the line) so much?' And that's throughout since I've been here."
Added Minnesota coach Tubby Smith: "We were ready coming out of halftime … but I guess we were fouling them every time, because the whistle was blowing every time down the court."
Smith shouldn't feel singled out by the overwhelming free-throw discrepancy. Ryan has won 546 career games because his teams have made far more foul shots than his opponents have even attempted.
Through 25 games this season, Wisconsin has nailed 376 free throws (on 536 attempts); opposing teams have stepped to the line just 344 times (with 233 makes).
Ryan had a lengthy explanation for how his team has managed to gain a plus-143 margin at the free-throw line, but added that every coach in the country knows the recipe. It's just up to each team to cook it up.
"What are you doing with your players in practice and what are you settling for in games?" Ryan said. "If you touch the post, you've got a better chance of getting fouled than if you keep the ball on the perimeter.
"I've been very fortunate to get guys that have been willing to buy into that for 30 years," Ryan added. "That's where I'm pretty lucky … or obstinate enough not to accept anything else. I don't know which."
J-Bo fights through pain
When he rolled his ankle in the five-on-five portion of practice Friday, Bohannon was initially listed as doubtful for Saturday's game against the Gophers.
Anybody at the Kohl Center who didn't hear that report probably didn't realize anything was wrong. Bohannon did cool off from his career-high 18-point performance Wednesday at Indiana, but stepped up for 11 points – hitting all six free-throw attempts – and four rebounds in 30 minutes.
"I was a little stiff from the start," Bohannon said. "But I loosened up, and … was just trying to be a smart player out there and do what I could."
Bohannon didn't know he would be a "go" for Saturday until about 10:30, two and a half hours before tipoff. He said he iced and relaxed the ankle Friday night and passed all the UW trainers' tests Saturday morning in order to suit up.
"I didn't know right away exactly what the status of the game would be for me," Bohannon said. "I wanted to get back and play, obviously; we're running for the Big Ten championship contention, so I wanted to come in and provide whatever I could for this team."
Fellow guards Flowers and Trevon Hughes have also contended with injuries this season; in fact, Hughes came off the court hobbling with five minutes left Saturday, though it didn't appear serious and nothing was said afterward about his status.
But according to UW center Brian Butch, such is the norm in the life of a Big Ten athlete.
"It's kind of that time of season, everyone's seems like they're getting hurt, with ankles or whatever it may be," Butch said. "It's February in Big Ten season, it's just one of those things you keep grinding out."
Jon Leuer, from Orono, Minn., played 10 minutes and was 1-of-2 from the free-throw line.
This marks Wisconsin's first game of the year boasting five players in double-digit scoring (Marcus Landry with 12, and Butch, Bohannon, Flowers and Hughes with 11 each).
Minnesota forwards Dan Coleman and Spencer Tollackson, who combine to average over ten rebounds a game, grabbed just one board a piece Saturday. Tollackson got himself in foul trouble early and played just 12 minutes.
The Gophers' 47 points against UW on Feb. 3 and 56 points Saturday are their two lowest scoring outputs of the season.
Minnesota was 10-of-23 from three-point range, but had just seven two-point shots.