MINNEAPOLIS — Ethan Happ had 15 points and 13 rebounds to help No. 19 Wisconsin avenge a loss to Minnesota with a 56-51 victory Wednesday night, the Badgers’ sixth straight win overall.
D’Mitrik Trice hit a 3-pointer with 1:44 remaining and 3 seconds left on the shot clock to give Wisconsin (17-6, 9-3 Big Ten) a 52-46 lead and seal a fourth consecutive victory at rival Minnesota. Gophers coach Richard Pitino fell to 2-9 in his career against the Badgers, who were held to a season-low 34.5 field goal percentage (19 for 55).
Jordan Murphy (16 points, 19 rebounds) and Daniel Oturu (12 points, 11 rebounds) each had a double-double, but Minnesota (16-7, 6-6) missed 12 of 13 attempts from 3-point range, including three in the final 76 seconds.
Brad Davison had 10 points for the Badgers despite a 2-for-12 shooting performance, and his fellow Minnesota native Nate Reuvers pitched in nine points, eight rebounds and seven blocks as part of a vintage effort on defense by coach Greg Gard’s team.
Gabe Kalscheur’s 3-pointer was the first make for the Gophers, but they didn’t get any to fall over the entire rest of this physical game. The Badgers weren’t called for a foul until 1:10 into the second half, much to the consternation of the Williams Arena crowd.
The Gophers didn’t get to the free-throw line until Murphy’s three-point play with 9:11 remaining capped a 7-0 spurt and cut the lead to 37-34, but they were only within one possession three more times over the rest of the game. Trice made them pay when he made his big shot, stretching his arms out wide and pointing to his forearm as if to signal a dose of ice water in his veins.
The Badgers brought more than momentum to “The Barn” for this border-state matchup. They carried a bad memory, too, of the 59-52 loss at home to Minnesota made possible by three turnovers and two missed free throws by Wisconsin in the final two minutes of the game. The Gophers led 29-14 at halftime on Jan. 3, but the Badgers were within 49-47 until their stumble in the final stretch.
That was a low point in the season for Wisconsin, on the heels of an 83-76 loss at Western Kentucky , but a second-half surge in a four-point loss at Maryland on Jan. 14 helped restore some confidence right before the winning streak began.
The Gophers never led in the first half, with Coffey well-contained by the Badgers and fellow guard Dupree McBrayer struggling with his jumper, but they didn’t fall behind by any more than five points thanks to their stifling underneath defense led by the freshman Oturu and the senior Murphy. The Badgers missed a whopping 13 of 18 shots at the rim before halftime. Oturu stuffed Reuvers on back-to-back shots on the same possession early in the game, prompting a loud roar from the crowd.
The noise level was lifted high again when Kalscheur stole the ball from Reuvers on the wing and took it the other way for a layup to forge a 19-all tie, but the Gophers made only one basket over the final five minutes of the half and trailed 24-21 at the break. The ugly first 20 minutes fittingly ended with an air-balled 3-point attempt by Davison at the buzzer.
Wisconsin: With eight games remaining, the Badgers have climbed into position as a legitimate contender for the regular-season conference title with some recent slip-ups by Michigan and Michigan State. They’re tied with the Spartans for third place but just one game behind the Wolverines for first. The most valuable development from this performance was the ability to win a Big Ten game on a rival’s home court despite such a rough shooting night.
Minnesota: The Gophers are last in the league in 3-point shooting, and their trouble from long range surfaced again at the wrong time. McBrayer went 1 for 9 from the floor, and leading scorer Amir Coffey had just eight points on 3-for-10 shooting.
Wisconsin: Travels to face No. 7 Michigan, after winning the first matchup 64-54 on Jan. 19.
Minnesota: Plays at No. 9 Michigan State, which has lost three straight games.