Minnesota ends 14-game losing streak at Kohl Center

first_imgEveryone knows how formidable a task it is to play the Badgers at the Kohl Center. Since Bo Ryan took over as head coach, his team is 115-9 at the Kohl Center and 56-4 against Big Ten opponents at home. Going into last Thursday’s game against Minnesota, Wisconsin had won 13 of the last 14 meetings and the Golden Gophers had not won in Madison since 1995.But Thursday night’s 74-78 overtime loss to the Golden Gophers, the Badgers’ second loss in a row, makes their home-winning stats seem insignificant, especially when the two teams on the winning end are ranked and could have provided an edge in the Big Ten standings.“A loss like this is pretty tough,” Bohannon said. “We were up by 10 points or so with four minutes to go and we kind of blow it down the stretch, it’s really tough [to get over the loss]. It’s the Big Ten conference and you have to come ready to play every night.”For the Golden Gophers, whose only blemish in their record comes from a 70-58 loss at home against conference-leading Michigan State, getting a big win at the Kohl Center is a big step for second-year head coach Tubby Smith and his team.“This is pretty big,” Smith said. “The Indiana win in the Big Ten tournament [last year] was pretty big. But, a lot of times, you look at a signature win that will kind of establish you. But, hopefully our [players] will learn you have to play with this kind of toughness and passion every time we go on the court.”The Gophers were helped out by staunch defense, which only allowed the Badgers to hit two field goals in the last 5:31 of the second half, and a career-high 29 points from junior guard Lawrence Westbrook.“We played some good defense on him and he hit some tough shots. You have to give him credit for it.” Wisconsin junior guard Jason Bohannon said. “There were some shots where he hit some tough two-point jump shots and if you can hit those all game, it’s going to be a rough night. We played good defense on him, too, sometimes but he still hit them.”Westbrook, who is averaging 12.8 points per game this season, has only averaged 7.9 points per game throughout his career. On Thursday night, however, he had five of the last eight points scored by Minnesota, including hitting the 3-pointer with three seconds left on the clock to send the game into overtime. During the extra period, he scored nine of the Golden Gophers’ 16 points.“He was remarkable,” Smith said of Westbrook. “He has that ability because he’s a tough guy. He wants the ball in his hands. He is mentally and physically tough, and there was nothing bigger than hitting the three to send it into overtime.”While Westbrook had the hot hand, the Badgers went cold. They shot only 31.8 percent from the field in the second half compared to shooting 50 percent in the first half. During the second half, Wisconsin led by as much as 14 with 14:08 left in the game, but good defense and a tough press forced the Badgers to commit nine turnovers in the second half.“We took some good shots in the second half, but they just weren’t falling,” Bohannon said. “In the second half, we were looking for shots where we felt comfortable and they just tried to take us out of that comfort zone. Regardless, we still need to play to what we do well. We can’t let their defense dictate how we play, and we need to correct that next time.”last_img

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