Game Recap: Wisconsin’s defense chops down rival Minnesota in suffocating win, 71-59

Author: Ryan Wollersheim

MADISON – The day after Wisconsin football won the Duke’s Mayo Bowl with a dominant defensive performance, the Wisconsin men’s basketball team followed suit Thursday when they held the Minnesota Golden Gophers to just 59 points in the Kohl Center.

The Badgers were led by senior forward Micah Potter who posted 18 points and 11 rebounds. Potter registered a double-double as he snatched up his 10th rebound early in the second half and went on to lead both teams in points and rebounds.

Golden Gophers’ star junior guard Marcus Carr, a player who averages 24 points per game, scored just 10 points in the entire contest. He also shot 3-13 from the field and 2-8 from three-point land as he was hampered all day by the Badgers’ swarming defense.

This win comes after Wisconsin suffered a deflating upset to Maryland at home last Monday in a game where the Badgers could not seem to match the Terrapins’ enthusiasm and effort. Currently the highest-ranked team in the Big Ten, the No.6 Badgers had to turn and rally against high-scoring rival Minnesota in order to maintain their position as one of the elite teams in the nation’s most competitive conference.

No. 21 Minnesota entered the game coming off two huge conference wins over the No.4 Iowa Hawkeyes and No.17 Michigan State Spartans. Those wins saw the Golden Gophers score an average of 91.5 points, which vaulted them into the third highest-scoring offense in the Big Ten coming into Thursday’s matchup against the Badgers.

The knock-down, drag-out first half ended with the Badgers leading 29-22, as both teams played physical and suffocating defense that kept one another from finding consistency on offense.

Wisconsin was able to generate a first-half offense by scoring 18 points in the paint and going to big man Micah Potter early and often. Potter took seven of the team’s first 14 field goal attempts and finished the half with a team-high 10 points and nine rebounds.

Minnesota struggled mightily on offense in the first half, as they shot just over 19 percent from the field and had seven first-half turnovers. The Golden Gophers were able to keep the game within seven points going into halftime due to their stout defense, which had six first-half blocks, and junior guard Gabe Kalscheur’s game-leading 12 points in the first half.

The Badgers’ offense, which began to heat up at the end of the first half, continued to stay hot as they outscored the Golden Gophers 23-10 in the first ten minutes after halftime. This run was spurred on by seniors D’Mitrik Trice and Aleem Ford, both of whom finished the game with 14 points and helped to put the game away midway through the second half.

The Golden Gophers finished the game 7-31 from three and shot just over 31 percent from the field. The Badgers also limited the Golden Gophers, a team that averages a nation’s best 30 free throw attempts per game, to just 14 charity stripe shots.

Wisconsin has now won 11 of their last 13 games against Minnesota, keeping the border battle between the schools lopsided on both the basketball court and the football field.

The Badgers will look to carry this momentum on into the new year as the play against the Penn State Nittany Lions in University Park, Pa. on Jan. 3.