Madison, WI (Sports Network) - Two of the Big Ten's best try to end losing
skids on Saturday afternoon, as the 12th-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers pay a
visit to the Wisconsin Badgers.
Minnesota's season got off to a fantastic start, as its only loss in the first
16 games came against nationally-ranked Duke on a neutral floor. Since then
however, the Gophers have been humbled in the treacherous Big Ten with three
straight defeats, dropping games to Indiana (88-81), Michigan (83-75) and most
recently, at Northwestern on Wednesday night (55-48). As a result, UM sits at
15-4 overall and 3-3 in conference.
Wisconsin was one of the nation's hottest teams just a few weeks ago, capping
off a seven-game win streak by knocking off then-No. 2 Indiana on the road,
64-59. Much like the Gophers however, the Badgers are in the midst of a slump
as they have suffered back-to-back losses at Iowa (70-66) and versus Michigan
State (49-47). The good news for Wisconsin is that it has played very well at
the Kohl Center this season (10-2).
Minnesota holds a 94-87 lead in the all-time series with Wisconsin, but the
Badgers have had the upper hand in recent years by winning three in a row and
16 of the last 20 meetings.
The Golden Gophers are typically one of the Big Ten's most explosive
offensives, shooting 46.4 percent from the field for nearly 75 ppg, but their
recent trip to Northwestern resulted in their poorest scoring output of the
season. They made just 33.3 percent of their field goal attempts and committed
15 turnovers in the seven-point setback, and they did not help themselves at
the foul line either (7-of-17). Overcoming his teammates' struggles was Trevor
Mbakwe, who shot 6-of-7 from the floor on his way to 14 points, while also
adding 16 rebounds for his fourth consecutive double-double. Andre Hollins
(13.8 ppg) is usually the team's top scoring option, as he shoots nearly 42
percent from 3-point range while dishing out 3.7 apg. Austin Hollins (11.2
ppg, 2.7 apg) is also an important asset in the backcourt, ranking second in
the Big Ten with 2.1 spg. Rodney Williams (12.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.5 bpg) and
Mbakwe (9.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.7 ppg) are physical presences on the low post,
while Joe Coleman (10.5 ppg) rounds out what is an incredibly balanced attack.
Against Michigan State, Wisconsin lived up to its billing at the Big Ten's
most stout scoring defense (55.4 ppg) by holding the Spartans to just 49
points on 38.3 percent field goal efficiency. The only problem was it could
not take advantage when it had the ball, shooting a woeful 29.6 percent from
the floor in what wound up as a tough two-point loss. Mike Bruesewitz scored
10 points, and while Jared Berggren (nine points, nine rebounds) and Ryan
Evans (six points, 11 rebounds) finished with solid lines in the frontcourt,
together they could not buy a bucket (5-of-22). The Badgers are usually able
to support their top-notch defense without much of an issue (+13.5 scoring
margin), but their scoring offense (68.9 ppg) only ranks eighth in the Big
Ten. Wisconsin's strength is in the frontcourt, with Berggren (12.5 ppg, 6.4
rpg, 1.8 bpg) and Evans (10.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg) being the most consistent
performers. Ben Brust adds 10.6 ppg and 5.7 rpg to the mix, while draining 38
3-pointers at a 38.4 percent clip.
The Sports Network