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February 9, 2012
Badgers escape with OT win
MINNEAPOLIS -- Wisconsin went scoreless for nearly eight minutes to end regulation. Minnesota scored 10 unanswered points to send the game into overtime.
And yet, the Badgers never doubted they would win Thursday night at Williams Arena.
"You'd think we'd be a little rattled, just because of the big lead we had," said Josh Gasser. "But we were still confident, we were still up. And we just kind of got together like, 'We're going to win this thing.' There was really no doubt in our minds that we were going to come out with a win."
Starting with a Gasser drive just under the four-minute mark in extra time, Wisconsin was aggressive over the final five minutes of the game, using 17 trips to the free throw line to hold off Minnesota for the 68-61 victory.
It's one thing to know you need to be aggressive. But it's another thing entirely to use that aggressiveness to get to the free throw line 17 times in five minutes. The Badgers made 15 of their final 17 attempts, and went 21-of-24 from the line on the night.
Before the game's momentum switched entirely to the home side, Wisconsin was in control for much of the night, leading by as much as 13 points in the second half. Jordan Taylor led the way offensively, scoring 27 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including 14 first-half points.
It was just the second 20-point performance of the season for Taylor -- the other coming in a 63-60 overtime loss to Michigan State -- and one of his best all-around games of the year. While he had three turnovers and did not dish out an assist, Taylor shot as well as he has all season, sparking the UW offense.
"He came out real aggressive," said Ryan Evans who posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. "He practiced aggressive last night. I knew he was going to be putting up shots.
"I was in there when he had the ball, I kind of looked to rebound a little bit, but they were going in. So, props to him. That's a big win for him in his home state as a senior. That's got to be a great feeling for him."
True to form, Taylor downplayed the significance of the win.
But it was the first victory for the Minnesota native in three tries at Williams Arena, just 11 miles from where he played his high school ball for the Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights.
"Any time you can win on the road against a tough opponent, it's always fun," Taylor said. "I haven't won here, so I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't enjoy that one a little bit.
"It's a fun atmosphere. I've been playing here since I was nine years old, state games and all that. I love playing in Williams."
As well as Wisconsin played over the first 30 minutes and the last five, it took two missed shots by Minnesota in the final seconds of regulation to even give the Badgers a chance to leave with a win.
UW went cold over the final 7:43 of the second half, missing each of its six field goal attempts.
It may not have looked like much at the time, but Rob Wilson had one of the plays of the game for the Badgers just before that stretch. Wilson grabbed an offensive rebound, but quickly missed his shot attempt.
Fortunately for Wisconsin, Jared Berggren grabbed the a second offensive board on Wilson's miss, and put the ball in to make it a 10-point game at 51-41. UW would not score again in the second half as Minnesota went on a 10-0 to cut the lead.
"That was a huge offensive rebound for us and a put back," said Mike Bruesewitz "And I think that was our 51st point. That gave us a chance to go into overtime."
And it gave them a chance to win.
The Badgers took advantage of that chance, grabbing their sixth win in eight true road games this season, their eighth win away from the Kohl Center and the fifth in six Big Ten road contests.
Even with their late struggles -- going 2-for-11 from the perimeter as they made just 28 percent of their second-half shots -- the Badgers shot well once again on the road, hitting 35.8 percent overall, and more importantly, 39.1 percent from 3-point range.
"I don't know," Bo Ryan said of why his team plays better on the road. "We're the same people. We drink the same water, juice, milk as we do at home. Our foods that we eat are the same.
"I hear stories about teams that do this every once in a while, but we still think we can always get the next one. No matter what."