Preview: No.14 Wisconsin vs. Minnesota

Going for its 20th win of the season, No.14 Wisconsin will head north for its only regular season match-up against Minnesota, a team anxious to add a signature conference win to its resume.

No.14 Wisconsin (19-6, 9-4 Big Ten) vs. Minnesota (14-10, 5-7)

Date/Time - Thursday, February 18, at 8 p.m. Central

Arena – Williams Arena (14,625)

Television - ESPN (Dave O'Brien and Steve Lavin)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas)

Series – Minnesota Leads 99-88 (UM Leads 66-30 in Minneapolis)

Last Meeting – Minnesota won, 51-46, on March 4, 2009 in Minneapolis

Wisconsin Probable Starters

3 Trevon Hughes (Senior Guard, 15.4 ppg)

11 Jordan Taylor (Sophomore Guard, 9.9 ppg)

12 Jason Bohannon (Senior Guard, 12.0 ppg)

24 Tim Jarmusz (Junior Forward, 2.9 ppg)

52 Keaton Nankivil (Junior Forward, 8.8 ppg)

Off the Bench

5 Ryan Evans (Freshman Forward, 3.8 ppg)

30 Jon Leuer (Junior Forward, 15.4 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (Freshman Forward, 1.1 ppg)

33 Rob Wilson (Sophomore Forward, 3.7 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (Freshman Center, 1.2 ppg)

Minnesota Probable Starters

20 Lawrence Westbrook (Senior Guard, 13.4 ppg)

24 Blake Hoffarber (Junior Guard, 11.6 ppg)

34 Damian Johnson (Senior Forward, 10 ppg)

45 Colton Iverson (Sophomore Center, 4.0 ppg)

50 Ralph Sampson III (Sophomore Forward, 8.2 ppg)

Off the Bench

1 Paul Carter (Junior Forward, 6.7 ppg)

3 Justin Cobbs (Freshman Guard, 2.3 ppg)

5 Devoe Joseph (Sophomore Guard, 8.5 ppg)

33 Rodney Williams (Freshman Forward, 5.0 ppg)

Last Meeting:

Poised to pay back Minnesota for the shock it received from the Gophers roughly two months ago, Wisconsin stormed back to assume full control as the final minutes ticked down, poised to not let another close game go by the wayside.

In a similar sequel, Minnesota junior guard Lawrence Westbrook was the man in the spotlight again, snatching a victory away from Wisconsin for the second time this year.

Although it wasn't like his dagger-like three-pointer and nine points in overtime, Westbrook scored the Gophers final 10 points, six coming from the free throw line, as Minnesota (21-8, 9-8 Big Ten) stormed back for a vital 51-46 bubble win.

Down one in the final seconds with 29 seconds remaining, Wisconsin (18-11, 9-8 Big Ten) got the ball to the Badgers' hottest hand – senior Marcus Landry.

Landry, after scoring only six points in the first half, went 5-for-6 in the second half, scoring 12 points to help turn an 11-point, first-half deficit into a five-point advantage with less than three minutes remaining.

On a night where Wisconsin shot 33.3 percent (15-for-45) from the field, it was Landry that pushed the Badgers to what figured to be a NCAA Tournament-clinching win.

Wisconsin took its first lead at 5:57 after Trevon Hughes (10 points) drew two defenders and did a no-look pass to Landry, who connected from the left block to give UW its first lead of the game.

After a UW stop at the other end, Landry was right there to clean up a Hughes miss, extending the Wisconsin lead to 41-38 with 5:25 remaining, finishing a stretch that saw the Badgers score 20 points on 12 possessions, 12 of which came from Landry.

But on this possession, Landry couldn't connect, but the rebound bounced to freshman and Minnesota native Jordan Taylor. Unable to put up a shot, Taylor kicked the ball out to Hughes for an immediate three. Hughes had no success either, but Wisconsin got another offensive rebound from Joe Krabbenhoft.

The luck ran out for Wisconsin there, as Krabbenhoft appeared to get pushed in the back and was unable to save the pass, resulting in the beginning of the end for the Badgers.

The Badgers were forced to foul Westbrook, who got the inbounds pass with six seconds remaining on the clock, and the junior extended Minnesota's lead to 49-46.

That's as close as the Badgers could get, as Hughes saw Wisconsin's ensuing inbounds pass fly off his fingertips and out of bounds, as he and the ball went five rows deep into the arena crowd.

Last Time Out:

Jason Bohannon shattered his previous career high of 20 points by scoring 30 on 11-of-16 shooting to help No.11 Wisconsin wash the sour taste out of its mouth with an 83-55 whitewashing against an Indiana team that never had a chance.

"Anytime you have been in a system for three-and-a-half years, you're bound to get more experience when to attack and when to utilize certain aspects of your game," a much chipper Bohannon said after. "Every person on our team has gotten better throughout the years because they listen to coach and the coaching staff.

"I was just getting open shots and knocking them down."

Primarily used for deep shooting purposes his first few seasons, the improvement in Bohannon's game is evident for Wisconsin (19-6, 9-4 Big Ten). Not only is the senior from Marion, Iowa, averaging 12 points per game overall and 13.8 in conference play, both career highs, Bohannon is setting precedence with his defense – already setting personal bests in steals (29) and blocks (14) - and has become extremely dangerous when the ball isn't in his hands.

Bohannon also made a career-best seven three-pointers on 11 attempts to tie the school record, done most recently by Nankivil at Purdue, helping Wisconsin keep pace with the front runners of the Big Ten.

"We're playing every game like we have a chance," Bohannon said. "Why wouldn't we have a chance? That's the mindset we have."

The game unfolded perfectly for Wisconsin, as the start was the perfect opportunity for the Badgers to right the wrongs committed on Tuesday.

In the home loss to Illinois, snapping UW's 18 game home unbeaten streak and perfect 51-0 mark at the Kohl Center against unranked conference teams under Coach Bo Ryan, the Badgers scored the game's first eight points, led by as many as 11 points in the first half and didn't let the Illini reach double figures until the 8 minute, 23 second mark before giving it all away.

So one could imagine some hesitance when the Badgers scored the game's first eight points, led by 12 early and didn't let the Hoosiers break double digits until the 10:56 mark.

It didn't matter that there is a distinct different between first-place Illinois and ninth-place Indiana, as Wisconsin had a point to prove. When the first-half lead swelled to as many as 28, the Badgers assured the rest of the conference that they are still a factor in the title race.

Wisconsin shot 50.8 percent from the floor (32-of-63), won virtually every hustle category imaginable, from rebounds (33-26, 15-8 on the offensive end) to steals (8-4) to blocks (3-0), and out scored Indiana in the paint 32-16 after registering only six points in the paint in its last contest

Series Notes:

Minnesota swept the series last season, but the Badgers have won 13 of the last 16 meetings overall

UW has won five of its last six at Williams Arena.

The Badgers boast four Minnesota natives: junior Jon Leuer (Orono), sophomore Jordan Taylor (Bloomington) and freshmen Jared Berggren (Princeton) and Mike Bruesewitz (St. Paul).

The Gophers swept the season series with the Badgers last season for the first time since the 1992 conference season (not counting vacated seasons). The Gophers' win at the Kohl Center on Jan. 15 ended a six-game win streak in the series for the Badgers and was also the first win for the locals at the Kohl Center (opened in 1998).

Wisconsin Notes:

UW's 83 points marked its largest scoring output against a Big Ten team this season. The Badgers shot 53.1 percent in the first half, marking the third time in the last four games that UW has shot 50 percent or better in the first half.

Ryan's teams have reached the 20-win plateau six times in eight seasons. Prior to Ryan's arrival in Madison, UW had a total of just four 20-win seasons in 103 years of basketball.

Seniors Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes notched their 100th career victory against Indiana on Saturday. The school record for career wins is 105, held by the Class of 2008 (Brian Butch, Michael Flowers, Greg Stiemsma and Tanner Bronson).

The Badgers are a perfect 12-0 this season when shooting a higher field goal percentage than their opponents. Interestingly, UW is also 7-6 in games when the opponent posts a higher FG percentage. The Badgers were 6-11 when being out-shot last season.

Minnesota Notes:

As of the NCAA's most recent stats (Thru games on Feb. 14), Minnesota is 6th in assists per game (17.4), 14th in steals per game (9.1), 14th in blocked shots (6.1), 17th in three-point FG percentage (.394) and 23rd in assist turnover ratio (1.31).

Minnesota leads the Big Ten Conference in blocked shots (146: 6.1 bpg), steals (218: 9.1 spg) and is second in defensive field goal percentage (.402).

Blake Hoffarber is first in the nation in three-point percentage (.493) averaging a career-high 11.6 ppg this season and is shooting .516 (94-182) from the field.

Ralph Sampson III is the Gophers' leading rebounder with a career-high 6.1 boards per game. He collected his second career double-double, both this season, with 13 points and 10 rebounds at Penn State (2/06).

Worgull's Prediction

Minnesota has been a train wreck after Tubby Smith led the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament in just his second season. Two of Smith's top recruits, Royce White and Trevor Mbakwe, weren't eligible to play this season because of legal matters. Then his best defensive guard, Al Nolen, was declared academically ineligible last month.

Throw in the fact that the Gophers have blown two 13-point leads in two losses against Northwestern and the Minnesota bubble, despite a miracle, has popped.

The Gophers have lost six of their last eight and are last in 3-point field goal percentage defense (40.2). It's not all doom and gloom. The Gophers lead the Big Ten in steals (7.1) and are second in forcing turnovers (13.8) per game - two things that will put Wisconsin's low turnover numbers to the test.

Minnesota is allowing just 60.0 points per game at Williams Arena under Smith (49 games), but this is a Gophers' team that is in disarray. Wisconsin has been playing good basketball and are about to get one of its biggest post weapons back. The Badgers are the better team by at least eight points, so there's no excuse should Wisconsin lose this one.

Worgull's Record: 19-6

Points off Prediction: 276 (11.0 per game)

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