Through 30 games of the 2011-2012 basketball season, it is clear that despite being a good team, the Wisconsin Badgers are not one swelling with offensive talent. Every college basketball has those handy reminders when a team goes for an extended stretch without a field goal or without points, and the Badgers seem to get one of those every game this season. Tuesday night against Minnesota was no different, as a six-minute scoreless stretch (including no field goals after the 12:30 mark in the first half) led to an early 10-point deficit and the lowest point total at the half on the season at 16 points. Despite the early struggles, Jordan Taylor and the Badgers adjusted to drop 36 points on the Gophers in the second half, finishing up a 52-45 victory behind the star point guard’s 22 points.
Unfortunately, the prevailing story in this one will likely be the performance of the referees. Although it didn’t quite rival last season’s game against Illinois at the Kohl Center (which featured an absurd 54 fouls and 77 free throw attempts), the Gophers and Badgers still combined for 44 fouls in just a 55 possession game. The Badgers made just 12 field goals on the game, but with half of them coming from three-point land and another 22 points coming from the line on 29 attempts, it was enough for the Badgers to stretch out the lead to 10 points with five minutes to go and ride it out for the victory.
Jordan Taylor notched another 20-point game over the Gophers with excellent efficiency, hitting three three-point shots, an overall 4-of-9 field goals. He was also the beneficiary of many of the Gophers’ 24 fouls, adding 11 more points on 12 tries at the line. His 22 total points gives him 113 in February for a second straight month over 16 points per game. Taylor also saw his shooting percentages skyrocket over the past month, as he made 44.5% of field goals and more importantly 42.8% of threes and 91.4% on free throws. It was his best month in all three categories.
The Badgers got a solid performance out of Ryan Evans — 12 points, eight rebounds on 3-of-7 shooting and six makes in six chances at the line — and just enough out of everybody else. No other Badger player made more than one shot from the field nor scored more than five points. But the Badgers defense was stifling in both halves, holding Minnesota to just 82.8 points per 100 possessions, their second-worst showing of the season.
The victory gives Wisconsin an 11-6 record in the conference and despite Indiana’s upset over Michigan State to get to 10-7, the Badgers’ earlier victory over Indiana (as well as their victory over 9-7 Purdue) clinches the fourth seed in the Big Ten tournament and a bye to the second round.