Wisconsin’s hopes for an NCAA bid probably hinge on a run in the Big Ten tournament, but the Badgers cannot afford a stumble in the regular-season finale at Minnesota on Sunday.
Wisconsin (16-13, 8-11 Big Ten) is coming off a 63-61 home loss against fifth-ranked Purdue on Thursday. Minnesota (8-20, 2-16 Big Ten) snapped a 12-game losing streak with a 75-74 win at home over Rutgers on Thursday.
Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 63-60 in the first meeting in early January, improving to 11-2 with its sixth straight victory and climbing to No. 14 in the poll. But forward Tyler Wahl injured his ankle in that game, the Badgers lost the next three games and have since gone just 5-11.
Wisconsin has played 17 games decided by five points or fewer, going 10-7. Of the Badgers last five losses, two were in overtime and the other three by a combined five points.
“I’d like to see them be rewarded because they’re doing so many good things and so many things right, and they’ve given us every single thing they have,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “Obviously Purdue’s got a terrific team this year, but they (Wisconsin) just continue to battle.”
Chucky Hepburn leads with 12.2 points per game and freshman guard Connor Essegian adds 12.0, along with a team-high 63 3-pointers. Steven Crowl averages 11.3 points and 7.1 boards.
Minnesota, which was routed 90-55 at Rutgers in early February, won the rematch on Jamison Battle’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. Battle finished with 20 points, including three 3-pointers in the final minute, as the Gophers overcame a 70-60 deficit.
“I think it just shows our guys’ will to compete and to fight and never give up,” Minnesota coach Ben Johnson said. “I thought everybody that played was phenomenal, I thought our bench was phenomenal, I thought our fans were phenomenal, and I’m just really excited those guys got rewarded.”
Dawson Garcia leads with 15.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Battle averages 13.2 points and a team-leading 55 3-pointers.
Wisconsin has won five straight vs. the Gophers and 14 of the last 16.
–Field Level Media