MINNEAPOLIS — Ethan Happ scored a career-high 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead No. 17 Wisconsin to a 78-76 overtime victory over Minnesota on Saturday.
Nigel Hayes added 21 points for the Badgers (16-3, 5-1 Big Ten) and Bronson Koenig hit two huge 3-pointers in overtime to help beat the Golden Gophers for the sixth straight time. The bigger, stronger Badgers outscored Minnesota 44-24 in the paint to win for the 12th time in their last 13 games.
Amir Coffey scored 19 points and Akeem Springs added 16 for the Gophers (15-5, 3-4), who lost their third straight game. Springs hit a 3 to force overtime, but his last-second heave in overtime clanked off the rim to preserve the victory for Wisconsin.
The border rivalry had not been much of a rivalry lately, with the Badgers taking every game following an upset by the Gophers in 2014. That game, a win over No. 9 Wisconsin, was the last time Williams Arena was sold out for a game before Saturday. And this crowd got its money’s worth.
There was plenty of red in the upper deck at the Barn, but the old gym’s rafters rattled for the first time in recent memory thanks to a Gophers program that has awakened this season after winning just eight games last season. With the homegrown Coffey leading the way, Minnesota took a 48-45 lead with 12 minutes to play in the game.
Reggie Lynch scored on a putback to put Minnesota up 64-62, but the Gophers went more than 5 minutes without scoring against the Big Ten’s best defense. Springs got loose for an off-the-dribble 3 from the left wing that tied the game with 11.4 seconds to go.
Koenig’s second 3 of OT put Wisconsin up 77-76 with 44 seconds to play. He finished with 11 points.
Wisconsin: Another tough win on the road against an opponent with a strong RPI has the Badgers rolling. They are in first place in the conference and withstood a fiery effort from the Gophers that should move them up the Associated Press’ Top 25. Wisconsin has road wins over Minnesota, Indiana and Marquette to bolster its resume.
Minnesota: Win or lose, this was a big game for establishing Williams Arena as a place to be in the crowded Twin Cities sports market again. The Gophers were knocked out of the AP Top 25 last week with consecutive losses to Michigan State and Penn State, but the young team gave senior-laden Wisconsin all it could handle. The gritty performance should further show a skeptical public that the team is worthy of its attention once more.
The Wisconsin big man got off to a slow start in the game, missing several easy shots early. But the Badgers never would have made it to OT without his performance in the second half. He scored 14 straight for the Badgers at one point and almost single-handedly fouled Lynch out of the game.
Wisconsin: Hosts Penn State on Tuesday.
Minnesota: Visits Ohio State on Wednesday.