Gophers Drop Low-Scoring Battle at #14 Wisconsin, 52-45

Go Gophers!
Senior Ralph Sampson III recorded his 1,000th career point in the loss at Wisconsin.

Go Gophers!
Senior Ralph Sampson III recorded his 1,000th career point in the loss at Wisconsin.
Go Gophers!

Feb. 28, 2012

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MADISON, Wis. -- Minnesota struggled on offense Tuesday night at #14/15 Wisconsin, shooting just 23.9 percent in a disappointing 52-45 loss to the Badgers at the Kohl Center.

The Badgers struggled, too, making just 12-of-39 (.308) attempts. But after being limited to 4-of-21 field goals and 16 first-half points, Wisconsin was able to do just enough to pull out a win and sweep the season series from Minnesota.

The Gophers held a seven-point lead at the half, but made just 6-of-24 field goals in the second half, while being outscored 36-22. Wisconsin reached the bonus with 14:25 remaining in the second half, and the Badgers made 16-of-20 free throws after the break to help secure the win.

With the win, their third-straight against the Gophers, the Badgers improved to 22-8 overall and 11-6 in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the Gophers dropped their sixth consecutive game to fall to 17-13 overall and 5-12 in the conference.

Freshman guard Andre Hollins, who scored a career-high 20 points in Minnesota's 68-61 overtime loss to the Badgers on Feb. 9, was again the top scorer for the Gophers. Hollins was limited to just 3-of-12 field goals, including 2-of-7 from beyond the arc, but he made 10-of-11 free throws to finish with 18 points in 37 minutes.

Junior forward Rodney Williams added 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds to just miss a double-double, while senior forward Ralph Sampson III tallied eight points, seven rebounds, and five blocked shots for the Gophers.

Sampson became the 37th player at Minnesota to reach 1,000 career points, and he joined an exclusive group of players by becoming just the fifth Gophers player with 1,000 career points, 500 rebounds, and 150 blocked shots. Kevin McHale, Randy Breuer, Mychal Thompson, and Michael Bauer are the others to have reached those milestones.

Wisconsin was led by Jordan Taylor, who scored a game-high 22 points, 17 of which were scored during the second half. Ryan Evans also played a key role for the Badgers, as he finished with 12 points and a team-high eight boards.

Andre Hollins got the Gophers off to a great start. He made a pair of three-pointers and scored eight of Minnesota's first 13 points as it built a two-point lead midway through the first half.

After being limited to three points due to illness in Sunday's loss to Indiana, Williams had five first-half points versus the Badgers. His 16-foot jumper gave the Gophers a 15-13 lead, and he later added a free throw for a three-point edge.

Minnesota stretched its lead to 19-13 after Andre Hollins was fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws. Sampson added a couple free throws to put the Gophers up eight points, and then an odd thing happened.

Following Sampson's second attempt was good, junior forward Andre Ingram inadvertently grabbed the ball on the baseline, thinking Minnesota was inbounding the ball. The honest mistake by Ingram infuriated Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan so much that he was whistled for a technical foul, and Andre Hollins went back to the line to make two more foul shots for a 23-13 lead.

Unlike the recent game in Minneapolis, where the Badgers made 7-of-11 first-half threes, Wisconsin had a horrendous offensive performance in the opening 20 minutes. The Badgers made just 4-of-21 (.190) attempts, including just 2-of-10 from long-range, and were held to just five free throws over the final 12 minutes and 34 seconds.

Taylor quickly got the Badgers going after the break, as Wisconsin scored the first four points to extend a scoring run from the first half to 7-0 and pull within three of the Gophers.

Williams knocked down a couple free throws to push the Gophers' lead back to 25-20. But Taylor made a pair of free throws and Mike Bruesewitz converted a three-point play to extend UW's run to 11-2 and tie the score.

Williams sliced through the lane for a layup to put the Gophers up by two, but Wisconsin answered with another 7-0 run to retake the lead.

The key to the Badgers' run came after Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith was called for a technical foul after a no-call on a clear foul on Andre Hollins. With the score tied at 27-27, Taylor made the free throws after the technical, then drained a long three to put the Badgers up 32-27.

Andre Hollins stepped back to the line and made a pair of free throws to cut it to 32-29, but Ben Brust and Taylor each made treys during a 9-3 run to stretch the Badgers' lead to 41-32.

Sampson pulled the Gophers within seven points by making a pair of free throws, as he reached the 1,000-point career milestone.

But Rob Wilson connected on another three-pointer for Wisconsin, as the Badgers took their first double-digit lead of the night, 44-34.

Trailing 46-36, Minnesota got a layup from sophomore guard Austin Hollins and a dunk by Sampson on a nice feed from Williams to pull back within six points.

In the closing minutes, though, Wisconsin's lead held up, as the teams traded free throws and the Badgers held on for its second seven-point victory over the Gophers this season.

The Gophers close their regular season by playing host to Nebraska for Senior Day on Saturday. Minnesota will look for a sweep of the Cornhuskers, as it recorded a 69-61 win in Lincoln on Feb. 5. Tipoff from Williams Arena is set for 11:30 a.m. (CT), and the game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

--By Michael Molde, GopherSports.com