Wisconsin Badgers use late run to down Minnesota Golden Gophers 73-63 in overtime
Minnesota did an effective job Monday night of limiting Ethan Happ, who has been the only consistent source of offense for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team this season.
Fortunately for the Badgers, sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl and freshman guard Brad Davison were able to pick up the slack.
Pritzl scored a career-high 20 points and Davison added 19 – one off his career high – to help UW rally for a 73-63 overtime victory over the Golden Gophers at the Kohl Center.
Happ was held to 10 points, but he had a team-high five assists and played a key defensive role in a win that assured UW of finishing above Minnesota in the Big Ten standings for the 20th consecutive season. The victory also means the Badgers will avoid playing on the first day of next week’s Big Ten tournament in New York.
Junior swingman Khalil Iverson added a career-high 12 rebounds for UW (13-16, 6-10 Big Ten), which followed up a win over No. 6 Purdue by beating its border rival for the eighth consecutive time.
Minnesota attacked Happ by double-teaming and/or trapping him in the post, so UW’s shooters had to come to the rescue. Pritzl went 6 of 9 from 3-point range, while Davison went 5 of 8.
“You have to be able to knock down some shots,” UW coach Greg Gard said, “when teams are going to commit that much to one guy and really clog the paint.”
Junior forward Jordan Murphy had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Minnesota (14-15, 3-13), which lost its ninth consecutive game. Sophomore forward Michael Hurt added 15 points for the Gophers, who haven’t won since Jan. 15 and haven’t beaten the Badgers since 2014.
Minnesota appeared poised to snap both of those skids after taking a 58-51 lead on a 3-pointer by Murphy with 5 minutes, 58 seconds in regulation.
But the Gophers managed only five points in 17 possessions the rest of the way.
“Coach challenged us,” said Davison, who had a game-high four steals. “He just told us to draw the line. We had to stick together, we had to come together, we had to get stops.”
After UW was able to overcome a seven-point deficit over the final 4:08 of regulation, Davison said the Badgers wanted to “come out and throw the first punch” in overtime.
Pritzl made sure that happened, draining two 3-pointers to complement a pair of baskets by Happ during a 10-2 run to start the extra session.
On the other end of the court, Minnesota turned the ball over on four of its first five possessions of overtime.
“Our defense sparked our offense,” Gard said. “I think they felt we can handle them defensively, let’s go score now.”
Murphy gave Minnesota a 59-56 lead with 14.1 seconds left in regulation, but he missed the second attempt and Iverson was fouled after grabbing the rebound.
After making the first attempt to draw UW within two points, Iverson missed his second try. But UW redshirt freshman forward Aleem Ford tipped the rebound to Pritzl, and UW called a timeout with 9.2 seconds remaining.
The plan was to give the ball to Happ, and that’s exactly what happened. He drove baseline, spun to avoid the double team and scored with 5.3 seconds remaining to tie the game at 59.
“I shoot 1,000 jump hooks a week,” said Happ, who had one field goal up to that point. “That one luckily went in.”
Minnesota senior point guard Nate Mason missed on a drive in the closing seconds of regulation, and Gophers coach Richard Pitino complained afterward that Mason was fouled by Davison on his way to the basket.
Pitino was also upset that his team didn’t foul Happ in the closing seconds of the regulation. Had Minnesota done so, it would have forced Happ, who is shooting 54.8 percent from the free throw line, to make both attempts.
Instead, Happ scored easily and UW had all the momentum heading into the extra session.
“We didn’t have anything left in the tank going into overtime,” Pitino said. “That last play didn’t affect the free throw blockout, that last play didn’t affect not fouling when we needed to foul. We had our chances to win the game. We just did not execute when we needed to execute, and that’s why you lose.”
Minnesota did a great job of executing its plan to contain Happ. But Davison carried the offense in the first half with 14 points, and Pritzl did the heavy lifting down the stretch with four 3-pointers in a span of 11 possessions.
“It’s just about always being ready to shoot,” Pritzl said, “and letting it fly.”