Badgers put away pesky Gophers in OT
Jordan Taylor and the Wisconsin Badgers watched their shooting touch abandon them during a frantic rally by border-state rival Minnesota.
The frustration didn't linger into overtime, though. It didn't even last past half court. That's the way Bo Ryan coaches them to think on defense.
Taylor scored 27 points for his first college win in his home state, and No. 21 Wisconsin gutted out a 68-61 victory over the Gophers on Thursday night.
''We did a good job of sticking together and finding a way to claw one out,'' Taylor said.
The Badgers (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten) failed to score over the last 7 1/2-plus minutes of the second half while the Gophers (17-8, 5-7) dug out of a 13-point hole. But that dogged Wisconsin defense came back in the overtime even though the Badgers' shooting touch and offensive movement didn't.
''Our guys didn't let that bother them down at the defensive end. They didn't get out of what we were doing,'' Ryan said.
Andre Hollins had a career-high 20 points, including five 3-pointers, and six rebounds for Minnesota, and Rodney Williams scored 16 points.
Ryan Evans had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Wisconsin, which went 15 for 17 from the free throw line in overtime.
''Anytime you can win on the road against a tough opponent it's always fun. I haven't won here, so I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't enjoy that a little bit,'' said Taylor, who had only one other 20-point game this season.
The preseason All-America hasn't been as productive or dominant as he was as a junior. Even his free throw shooting is down by 10 percent. This was one of those signature games, though, for the spunky senior.
After going 4 for 4 from 3-point range in the first half, he hit another one early in the second to push Wisconsin's lead to 37-26. About 5 minutes later he started a fast break, determined to finish it, he wove back and forth around the Gophers before flipping the ball in for a nifty layup and a three-point play to make it 45-33.
When he drew the foul and landed on the court, he sat up and struck one of those it's-my-night poses by folding his arms across his chest and staring confidently at his teammates.
''We had no answer for him, and that was the difference in the game, I thought,'' Gophers coach Tubby Smith said.
The Badgers made only one basket over the last 9 1/2 minutes of the second half, a putback by Jared Berggren - one of three Minnesotans in Wisconsin's starting lineup - with 7:43 remaining. Wisconsin has not lost in 19 games this season when leading or tied with 5 minutes left.
Williams and Hollins sandwiched baskets around an offensive foul on Taylor. Hollins beat the shot clock with a 3-pointer to bring the Gophers within two, and Austin Hollins tied the game with 1:02 left on two free throws to send a deafening roar through the arena.
Berggren's 3-pointer from the corner clanked off the side of the rim, setting up the final possession. Andre Hollins had the first chance at the winner out of the timeout, and he was upset at himself for his shot selection.
With Taylor in his face, he took a one-handed leaner from the top of the key after a crossover dribble that Taylor said he expected after watching some of Minnesota's past games. Hollins said he should have used the step-back jumper, his pet move.
''That's going to haunt me for a while,'' he said.
Austin Hollins grabbed the rebound along the baseline and tried a shot from the corner that bounced off the rim, sending the game to the extra period.
The Gophers couldn't crack that dogged Wisconsin defense, averaging a nation-best 49.8 points entering the game.
''I don't think it was a matter of us being tired or not. We just didn't execute in those situations. We were kind of sloppy,'' Hollins said.
Wisconsin is 209-18 under Ryan and 16-1 this season when leading at halftime, and they took a 32-24 edge to the locker room. But the Badgers went just 2 for 12 from 3-point range after halftime and had to hang on to bounce back from their loss last week to Ohio State.
Wisconsin has the conference's best regular-season road record since Ryan was hired in 2001. The Badgers are 8-2 away from the Kohl Center this season.
''Nine minutes to go, up 13, the game's over. That's what everyone else is thinking, but we're not thinking that. They made a solid comeback,'' Evans said.