Wisconsin Basketball: Badgers hunting for sixth straight win at Minnesota

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - FEBRUARY 03: Amir Coffey #5 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers dribbles the ball around Ryan Cline #14 of the Purdue Boilermakers during the first half at Mackey Arena on February 3, 2019 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - FEBRUARY 03: Amir Coffey #5 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers dribbles the ball around Ryan Cline #14 of the Purdue Boilermakers during the first half at Mackey Arena on February 3, 2019 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Wisconsin Basketball heads to the Twin Cities to take on Minnesota Wednesday evening. After losing to the Gophers the first time around this season, will the Badgers get some revenge and pick up their sixth straight victory?

The Badgers were in the midst of playing their worst basketball of the year in the lead up to Wisconsin’s first matchup with Minnesota this season on January 3 at the Kohl Center. It’s safe to say that trend continued against the Gophers, at least in the first half.

As has been the case at times this season, Wisconsin came out of the gates pathetically slow.  At the end of the first half, the Gophers led by 15 and the Badgers had just 14 points to their name, largely due to an atrocious14 percent clip from three-point range.

While Wisconsin stormed back in the second half to cut Minnesota’s lead to seven with just over eight minutes to go, the Badgers choked at the free throw line in the game’s final minutes after getting back within striking range. The Gophers managed to hang on for the 59-52 win, ending an eight-game losing streak to the Badgers and beating them on their home court for the first time since 2009.

Fast forward a few weeks, and this is a very different Wisconsin team. The Badgers have clearly turned a corner in their season, rattling off five straight wins and looking like a legitimate threat to earn a regular season Big Ten title.

Meanwhile, Minnesota is coming off a brutal 73-63 loss at Purdue in which the Gophers led by as many as 13 with 14:13 remaining in the game.

You can bet that both teams will be playing with a little extra fire in Round 2 of this rivalry matchup on Wednesday evening, especially with the Badgers seeking to exact revenge after losing the first time around and the Gophers looking to bounce back after that frustrating loss in West Lafayette.

Which squad leaves The Barn with the win?

Projected starters

No. 19 WISCONSIN (16-6)

G – D’Mitrik Trice – SO (13.6 ppg)

G – Brad Davison- SO (11.3 ppg)

F – Khalil Iverson – SR (4.8 ppg)

F – Nathan Reuvers – SO (8.3 ppg)

C – Ethan Happ – SR (18.5 ppg)


G – Gabe Kalscheur – FR (10.1 ppg)

G – Dupree McBrayer – SR (9.9 ppg)

G – Amir Coffey – JR (16.2 ppg)

F – Eric Curry – SO (4.9 ppg)

F – Jordan Murphy – SR (14.9 ppg)

Keys to the game and prediction

It probably goes without saying, but Wisconsin will not come out on top if they go 5-22 from beyond the arc again.

In the last matchup, Minnesota coach Richard Pitino opted to take Ethan Happ out of the game by sending double teams whenever the All-American got the ball on the block. That strategy paid off big-time because Happ’s teammates on the perimeter simply could not buy a bucket when he whipped the ball out to them for open shots.

However, I doubt that plan will work out as well for the Gophers this time around should Pitino opt to deploy it once again. The Badgers have been rock-solid from long range over the last five games, especially in the case of Brad Davison, who is coming off a 21-point game against Maryland and has shot just under 46% from three throughout Wisconsin’s win streak. It hasn’t just been him though, as a number of other Badgers have stepped up and hit big shots lately, with Aleem Ford’s two huge threes in the second half against the Terps serving as the most recent example.

Wisconsin will be hoping that Minnesota is put in a pick your poison scenario, and ultimately, I think Pitino will be forced to  put Jordan Murphy in more one on one situations on Happ thanks to some reliable shooting from his teammates. How well Minnesota’s senior forward does in that role could be the game’s deciding factor.

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These are two teams that are pretty evenly matched, and the Gophers will certainly have an edge in an environment at The Barn that is usually pretty rowdy when the Badgers come to town. As such, I would expect yet another very competitive contest throughout, so free throw shooting will be key for Wisconsin to come out ahead.

The Gophers employed the Hack-a-Happ strategy when the Badgers got back within striking range late in the last matchup to great effect, and it’s likely we could see that again on Wednesday. In a game that should be tight at the end, Happ and his teammates need to do what they could not do last time-but what they have been successful in doing lately-and close the game out by converting from the line.

In the end, I think the Badgers just have too much firepower offensively at the moment and will come to the Twin Cities with an axe (no pun intended) to grind against one of their most fierce rivals. Bucky rolls, 67-62.

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All stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com