Minnesota falls 52-45 to No. 14 Wisconsin

Minnesota coach Tubby Smith has been begging his players to get
aggressive on offense and take the ball to the hoop.

The Gophers listened on Tuesday night, but they couldn’t hit
anything.

Minnesota shot just 24 percent from the field in a 52-45 loss to
No. 14 Wisconsin, extending their losing streak to six games.

”Before we weren’t doing it,” Smith said. ”Now we’re doing
it, and we’re not finishing at the basket.”

Jordan Taylor scored 22 points for Wisconsin, which clinched a
first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament.

Both teams shot poorly, there were 43 fouls called and the teams
combined to shoot 58 free throws.

But the Badgers (22-8, 11-6) found their shooting touch in the
second half to secure at least a fourth-place finish in the
conference.

Minnesota (17-13, 5-12) led 23-16 at halftime. But Wisconsin
opened the second half on a 9-2 run to tie it at 25 on a
three-point play by Mike Bruesewitz. He was initially called for a
charge, but the officials huddled and reversed the call. Replays
showed Andre Hollins’ foot was on the arc under the basket.

Had the original call stood, it would have been Bruesewitz’s
third foul just 4 minutes into the second half, and Gophers coach
Tubby Smith ripped the call after the game.

”You’re going to huddle like that and change a call? Are you
kidding me?” Smith said. ”It’s a joke. It really is.”

Minutes later, with the game tied at 27, Smith was called for a
technical foul, and Taylor hit both free throws to give Wisconsin
its first lead since 11-10 midway through the first half. Taylor
followed with a 3-pointer, and Wisconsin didn’t trail the rest of
the way.

Robb Wilson’s 3 with just under 7 minutes left gave Wisconsin
its first double-digit lead at 44-34, and the Badgers held on down
the stretch.

Evans added 12 points for Wisconsin.

Hollins led the Gophers with 18 points, while Ralph Sampson III
finished with eight points to give him 1,004 for his career. He is
the fifth player in Minnesota history with 1,000 points, 500
rebounds and 150 blocks.

But that was one of the few highlights for the Gophers in what
is now a six-game losing streak. With their hopes of an at-large
bid to the NCAA tournament taking a huge hit over the last three
weeks, Hollins said it’s time to focus on the Big Ten
tournament.

”This is the second season,” he said. ”We have to refocus
ourselves. Don’t worry about this and go out and win the Big Ten.
Everything has changed.”

The teams were almost even at the free throw line as Minnesota
shot 21 of 29, though it missed three of its last four attempts,
and Wisconsin was 22 of 29. But after shooting 19 percent from the
field in the first half, Badgers knocked down 4 of 12 from behind
the 3-point arc in the second half. Minnesota, meanwhile, shot just
24 percent for the game.

Despite looking lifeless Sunday in a 19-point home loss to
Indiana, the Gophers were the aggressor for most of the first half
Tuesday.

It didn’t hurt that Taylor was called for his second foul with a
little more than 6 minutes left in the first half, sending him to
the bench, and Wisconsin’s offense ground to a halt. The Gophers
finished the first half on a 9-3 run to lead 23-16, and the spurt
included a technical foul on Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.

After Sampson hit two free throws, a Minnesota player lined up
out of bounds to inbound the ball. As the crowd voiced its
displeasure, the referees made sure Wisconsin got the ball, but
pass was errant and rolled out of bounds at midcourt.

Ryan said the delay allowed Minnesota to set up its press, which
it used off and on to slow Wisconsin’s offense. He said all he
asked was whether it should have been a technical on the
Gophers.

”My feeling was it altered the flow of the game, so I had an
opinion,” Ryan said. ”Evidently, I was wrong.”