A quick Wisconsin start and the Badgers’ nationally second-ranked defense proved too much for Minnesota to overcome on Sunday in a 63-47 men’s basketball loss at Williams Arena.
The Badgers opened up a 9-2 lead just over four minutes into the game and extended the cushion to 20-8 while hitting eight of their first 10 shots. Wisconsin made its first seven attempts from two-point range while taking a 29-10 lead with 8:58 left in the first half.
Wisconsin, ranked 13th in both national polls, never trailed in the game and led by at least 10 points over the final 31 minutes of the game. The Badgers ran their record to 18-3 overall and remained in first place in the Big Ten at 8-1 in the league. Minnesota dropped to 13-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten.
The Gophers were held to 36.0 percent shooting (18-for-50) against the Wisconsin defense, which entered the game holding foes to 54.5 points per game and 38.1 percent field goal shooting. It was a season-low scoring total for the Gophers, whose previous low came in a 65-59 loss at Michigan State. Lawrence Westbrook was Minnesota’s leading scorer with 11 points and Damian Johnson added 10 points.
Wisconsin’s Trevon Hughes scored 11 of his game-high 20 points in the first half to lead a balanced Badgers’ offense. Hughes was also the leader of the defense with six of the Badgers’ 12 steals. Marcus Landry had all of his 11 points in the opening half as Wisconsin shot 57.7 percent (15-for-26) in the opening 20 minutes. Brian Butch also had 11 points for Wisconsin, which shot 48.9 percent (22-for-45) for the game.
The Badgers were ahead 31-14 before Al Nolen drained a three-pointer from the corner to spark a 7-0 Gophers’ spurt and bring Minnesota within 31-21 with 5:03 left in the first half. However, the Gophers went cold from that point, scoring just two points the rest of the half on a pair of free throws by Lawrence Westbrook with 52 seconds left in the half. Wisconsin led 39-23 at halftime and Minnesota had just one field goal over a span of 11:50 until a three-point play by Jonathan
Williams with 13:13 left in the second half brought the Gophers within 47-28.
Minnesota’s closest penetration to the Wisconsin lead in the second half was 14 points. Both came on plays by Westbrook, who hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 54-40 with 5:20 left and scored on a driving layup with 1:19 left to make it 61-47.
The Gophers return to action Wednesday at Northwestern at 6 p.m.