After attaining sole possession of first place in the Big Ten this past week, the UW men's basketball squad travels to Minnesota this afternoon for a nationally-televised game against the Gophers. This will be the second meeting between the two teams this year as Wisconsin won the first in Madison, 66-50.
Coach Bo Ryan's men are standing 10-4 in the Big Ten, 20-6 overall and are coming off a dominant dismantling of former first place Michigan last Wednesday at the Kohl Center in Madison. In the victory, UW held Michigan to a season-low 42 points on 31 percent field goal shooting en route to its 15th straight home conference victory.
The victory epitomizes the solid team effort that the Badgers have displayed game after game this season, as UW finished with four players in double-digit scoring. Leading the way for the Badgers, for the second straight game, was sophomore forward Mike Wilkinson and his 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Senior guard Kirk Penney also added 15 points and freshman forward Alando Tucker supplied a solid 12 point, 10 rebound effort in the Badgers' 31-point home victory over Michigan.
Next up for UW is a battle with its border rivals and the surging Minnesota Gophers (16-8 Overall, 8-5 Big Ten). The Gophers are coming off a tough loss on the road against Michigan State, and are looking to help build on their possible at-large bid for the NCAA national tournament in front of a rowdy crowd at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Leading the way for Dan Monson's Gophers in their last outing was sophomore guard Maurice Hargrow with 17 points. Another sophomore that UW will have to deal with is a preseason Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, forward Rick Rickert. Rickert had 14 points and five rebounds in the first meeting between the two teams in January.
This will be the 176th meeting between the two schools and Minnesota holds the all-time edge 96-79.
THREE KEYS FOR WISCONSIN
1. Second Half Surge - The Badgers have been nearly unstoppable during second halves this season. In their last 12 games, they outscored opponents in the second half during 11 of those games by a total of 117 points.
2. Kaptain Kirk - Penney seems to have his best games against Minnesota, averaging 23 points per game in the last four against the Gophers.
3. Big Ten's Best - The Badgers are looking and playing like the Big Ten's best. Their biggest strength is defense and forcing turnovers but also offensively, not turning the ball over. Wisconsin is first in the Big Ten and second in the nation with 10.4 turnovers per game, on pace for a new school record.
THREE KEYS FOR MINNESOTA
1. Hustle This! - One of the biggest and most overlooked keys for this Minnesota squad is its hustle. When the Gophers are winning, they are throwing their bodies all over the court and making the extra effort towards the big play. A lot of the energy and hustle on this team comes from their bench play and that could be the story of the game.
2. Versatility - Minnesota has one of the top scoring offenses (76.2 ppg)in the Big Ten and that goes with all the versatility they can have on the floor at a given time. Matching up with the Gophers can be tough because they have the big guys to put up jumpers from all over the court.
3. Block Party - The Gophers average a Big Ten best 6.9 blocks per game and this could really make a huge difference in the game's outcome. If the Gopher big men are controlling the paint, it will be very tough for UW to leave Williams Arena with a road victory.
Wisconsin at Minnesota Preview
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