Wisconsin Basketball: Badgers Continue Dominance of Minnesota

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports /

The Wisconsin basketball team earned win No. 20 on the season Wednesday night in Minnesota

The Wisconsin basketball team continued its dominance in the border battle with the University of Minnesota, beating a depleted Gophers roster 62-49 Wednesday night in Minneapolis.

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The Badgers have now won each of the last five meetings with the Gophers, and nine of the last 10 overall against their rivals to the west.

My-oh-my what a difference 12 games has made for UW.

It seems like just yesterday the Badgers were on their way to the NIT Tourney, having lost to the likes of Western Illinois and UW-Milwaukee and seeing Bo Ryan ride off into the sunset under the scrutiny of a sub-par start to the season.

Wisconsin was 9-9 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten with an RPI of 110. Since then, still interim head coach Greg Gard has led the Badgers to wins in 11 of 12 games, climbing to 2nd place in the league and No. 33 in the RPI.

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He’s solidified himself as the head coach of the future for the Badgers in the minds of many, and said after the game he’s excited about where his team is and where it could be going heading into the postseason next week.

“We’re playing good basketball right now which makes it seem like things are going to go our way,” Gard said after the game. “But we know we need to continue to get better and concentrate on the next man up. If we can keep getting better, I think this team can surprise some people.”

For Wisconsin, their 20th win of the season makes for 13 of the last 14 seasons in which the Badgers have hit the 20 win mark.

Minnesota didn’t really pose a threat to the Badgers throughout the night Wednesday, as they limped through the game genuinely missing key starters in guards Nate Mason, Kevin Dorsey and Dupree McBrayer who were suspended by coach Rich Petino for violation of team policy.

Wisconsin felt no pity early on, and even had a stretch midway through the first half that where they hit eight straight field goals and used a Nigel Hayes three-point bucket to go up 38-18 with just over two minutes to go before half.

Offensively Wisconsin committed just three turnovers in the first 20 minutes, and showcased a much more organized form of basketball in winning their fifth Big Ten road game of the season.

Leading the way for Wisconsin in the scoring column was Bronson Koenig who posted 14 points to go with one rebound and six assists on the night.

Ethan Happ had yet another double-double, as the freshman continued his persistent push for Freshman Of The Year honors in the Big Ten with 12 points and 10 boards.

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Hayes had just six points, but grabbed seven boards to go along with his scoring output. Zak Showalter knocked down a couple of threes and ended the night with eight points also for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin has just one game left on their 2016 regular and conference schedule. They’ll head to Purdue this coming Sunday, in attempts to secure a No. 2 overall seed in the Big Ten Tourney.

With the win Wednesday, Wisconsin clinched at the very worst a six-seed in the year-ending conference tourney.

While the Badgers now sit tied for second place in the Big Ten with a 12-5 record, there is still the potential for a four four-way tie between Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State and Wisconsin which will be decided by overall record vs. the other three teams.

Wisconsin is 3-2 vs. the trio, No. 3 Maryland and No. 4 Iowa are 2-2 each, with the Terps winning the lone head-to-head meeting between the two teams, and No. 5 Michigan State is 2-3.

Next: Greg Gard Deserves Big Ten Coach of the Year

Stay tuned to Badger of Honor for more coverage of the Wisconsin basketball team.