Losing A Golden Opportunity

Up 12 points with 4:53 left in the game, Minnesota junior guard Lawrence Westbrook gives his team a second breath, hitting the game-tying three to send the game into overtime and scoring nine of his game-high 29 points to shock Wisconsin, besting the Badgers, 78-74.

MADISON – When he first arrived on campus at the beginning of the 2007-08 season, Gopher fans labeled head coach Tubby Smith as the 'Minnesota Miracle Man,' pushing the fictitious Gordon Bombay of Mighty Ducks glory into the backseat.

In the second year of the rebuilding project, it's safe to say Minnesota has a new Miracle Man in Lawrence Westbrook.

Down 12 with just under five minutes to play, Minnesota, losers of 12 straight games in Madison, quietly chipped away at the Badgers, never showing any quit or give up. The result was an 8-2 run that was capped by a deep three pointer by Westbrook to tie the score at 62 with three seconds left and send the game into overtime.

From that point on, he took control.

Scoring nine of his game-high 29 points in the extra session, Westbrook made sure Minnesota ended a decades worth of futility in Madison, helping the Gophers take control in the extra frame and leaving Madison with a 78-74 overtime victory.

The loss sends the Badgers (12-5, 3-2 Big Ten) to their second consecutive for the first time since February 2007 and its record to 1-5 against ranked teams and 56-4 against conference teams under Bo Ryan.

"These are the games that might keep you up at night thinking about," said senior Marcus Landry, who led UW with 18 points. "We did it to ourselves. These are games that you don't ever want to happen again in the future."

Wisconsin (12-5, 3-2 Big Ten) was in control from the early goings of the second half, holding an 11-point lead at halftime thanks to the trio of Jason Bohannon, Landry and Jon Leuer scoring all 33 of UW's first half points and Badgers maintaining that lead throughout the majority of the second half, leading 52-40 with 4:53 left in the game.

It was at that point that Westbrook really started to heat up. He nailed a layup to cut the lead to five with 2:26 left and knocked two free throws to slice the lead to four with 44 seconds on the clock.

After Joe Krabbenhoft (seven points) made two free throws to extend Wisconsin's lead to three with 14 seconds left, Westbrook received the pass from Blake Hoffarber, pumped fake to get Trevon Hughes in the air and calmly sank the tying three pointer, silencing the sellout Kohl Center.

Minnesota (16-1, 4-1 Big Ten) scored 20 points on its final 10 possessions to send the game into overtime.

"I shot the ball with confidence and I knew it was going in the whole way," Westbrook said. "There was no doubt in my mind. As soon as Blake gave me the ball, before I shot it, I knew it was going in. There was no way I was going to miss it.

"Once we got it to overtime, I felt confident we were going to win. We fought so hard to come back. We couldn't afford to lose. And we had the momentum, and just came out and attacked and we won."

Wisconsin chose not to foul in the waning seconds, choosing to let the Gophers beat them from the floor and not the line, a decision that ended up costing Wisconsin.

"We told them to make him put it on the floor and that we didn't do," Ryan said. "The big theory is to force the guy to attack into two-point range and we didn't do that."

With the Badgers stunned from the moment overtime began, Westbrook continued delivering the punishment to Wisconsin. Driving down the center of the lane, the junior guard made the slashing layup and drew a foul from Leuer in the process to complete the three-point play.

That was beginning of the avalanche for Wisconsin, as Minnesota scored the first seven points of overtime. Wisconsin was able to chip the lead down to two twice, with 14 seconds and five seconds left, but couldn't handle Westbrook, who was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final 15 seconds to seal the deal.

"He was remarkable," Tubby Smith said of Westbrook. "He has the ability because he's a tough guy and wants the ball in his hands and none bigger than the three to send the game into overtime."

"He got in that zone and I am glad that he got into it tonight."

Wisconsin committed 18 turnovers, including a combined 10 miscues from Landry and junior Trevon Hughes. Hughes, who finished 3-for-11 from the floor, has committed 11 turnovers in the past two games after committing 13 in the last 11 games combined, as Minnesota's full court pressure defense became too much to handle.

"We just made some poor decisions as a team collectively," said Bohannon, who added 16 points for Wisconsin. "A loss like this isn't pretty. We had the lead and blow it down the stretch is really tough. It's the Big Ten conference and you've got to come play every night, regardless of what happens in the past."

The Badgers, who never led in overtime, also got contributions from Leuer (15) and Hughes (14), but got a combined nine points from everyone else and were out scored by Minnesota's bench 23-19, out rebounded 35-34 and watched helplessly as Westbrook and the Gophers took control.

"It certainly was a hard fought game and to get a win against the Badgers is a tremendous accomplishment by the team and the program," Smith said. "We showed a lot of moxie, toughness and made some clutch plays and that's what it takes to beat a time like Wisconsin.

"Everyone kind of looks (for) a signature win," he added. "This (one) is pretty big."


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