Buoyed by balanced scoring and solid free-throw shooting down the stretch, No. 14 Wisconsin (21-4, 11-3) held off Minnesota (15-9, 5-7) 65-56 on Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Minnesota battled poor shooting throughout the second half and Wisconsin converted 25 of 33 (75.8%) free throws in the game, including 17 of 21 (90.9%) in the closing half to propel the Badgers to their 52nd home conference victory in 55 tries during the Bo Ryan era.
The Badgers received at least 11 points from five different players on Saturday afternoon. Marcus Landry finished with 12 points to lead the hosts.
Minnesota held the lead in several statistical categories but in the end, the Gophers' lack of inside scoring was the difference. They fired a solid 10-23 from three-point range (44%) but made only 7-28 from inside the line and missed numerous opportunities under the basket. The Gophers’ Dan Coleman and Lawrence Westbrook scored 10 points apiece to lead the Gophers. Al Nolen, in his second start of the season, finished with six points, six rebounds and five assists.
Minnesota led 41-40 with just 11:40 left in the game, but the Badgers went on a 21-7 run to push Wisconsin’s lead to 61-48 with 1:16 left. During the stretch, the Gophers shot themselves out of contention by going 2 for 18 (11.1%) from the field during the run that lasted 10:24. The game was tied as late as 8:45 remaining after Lawrence McKenzie hit a three to knot the game at 45-45. A Jason Flowers three pushed the Badger lead to 52-45 but a trey by Westbrook brought Minnesota within four with 4:19 left.
Minnesota kept it close in the first half by shooting well from three-point range and from the charity stripe. The Badgers held a 7-1 lead with 4:08 elapsed in the game. The Gophers would go on an 16-7 run to take the lead at 17-14 on the strength of a Blake Hoffarber three-pointer with 8:43 to go in the opening half. A three by Jamal Abu-Shamala after Jon Williams grabbed an offensive rebound gave the Gophers a four-point edge at 22-18 with 4:09 remaining. The border rivals traded leads won the stretch of the half but Brian Butch hit a three just before the end of the half and Wisconsin led 27-26 at the break. The Gophers as a team finished 4 for 9 from three-point range in the first half and were 8 of 13 from the free throw line.
Minnesota heads back to the Minneapolis where they will take on Michigan in a nationally televised contest on ESPN2 at 8:00 on Thursday night at Williams Arena.