January 16, 2009

The good, bad and ugly from Minnesota loss

MADISON, Wis. - With four minutes to play in the Thursday night's game at the Kohl Center, Wisconsin seemed to have everything under control against rival Minnesota. Holding a 10-point lead at home, it looked as if the Badgers would salt away the Gophers and move up in the Big Ten standings.

Instead, the unthinkable happened and behind a relentless Lawrence Westbrook, the Gophers stormed back and stole the game in overtime. The win was a first for the Gophers in the Kohl Center.

Now that the dust has settled from a shocking defeat, BadgerBlitz.com takes a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly from the Minnesota game:

The good

Resiliency in first half: After Al Nolen drilled a three-point shot to give the Gophers an early 10-2 lead, the Badgers could have gotten down on themselves and seen Minnesota extend its lead. Instead, UW responded with a 27-6 run to open up a 13-point lead of its own.

Great team basketball in opening half: While only three Badgers scored in the opening 20 minutes, it truly was a great effort on both sides of the ball. Wisconsin did not allow the Gophers to get an opportunity from the charity stripe and limited them to 41.7 percent from the floor in comparison to UW's 50 percent tally.

While UW did commit nine turnovers of their own, they forced Minnesota into even more (11). Meanwhile, Wisconsin found its way to the line eight times and connected on seven of them and out-rebounded the Gophers 14-11 in the opening frame.

"We did a lot of good things in that game, especially in the first half," UW senior Marcus Landry said following his 18-point effort. "Those are teaching points also. Those are the points that you learn from, that you have to continue to do under pressure. We're going to learn from the good things we have done, too."

The bad

Poor shooting in first eight minutes of second half: Nursing an 11-point halftime lead, the Badgers could have come out of the chute in the final 20 minutes and put major pressure on the Gophers by continuing its play from the first half. Instead, Wisconsin limped out of the gates by shooting 3-for-10 from the field during approximately the first eight minutes of the period. In the same stretch, UW committed three turnovers that thwarted any chance for a score.

"They changed up a little bit, but we still got some good shots in the second half and they just weren't falling," UW junior Jason Bohannon, said. "We were kind of in a rhythm, hitting shots where we felt comfortable. They just tried to take us out of that comfort zone. Regardless, we got to still play to what we do well and we can't let their defense dictate how we play."

Overtime period: Even though Minnesota had established all the momentum with its incredible late scoring surge to force the extra five minutes, the Badgers still had an opportunity to get a win. However, after starting the session just 1-for-8 from the floor, the Badgers found themselves in a seven-point hole with 41 seconds to play.

"That is what it takes to beat a good team like Wisconsin," Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith said in reference to his team's play down the stretch and in overtime. "Everything has to fall in place for you. Then at the end I thought we made some things happen by attacking defensively and offensively."

Bohannon's blocked lay-up with 37 seconds to play: With UW struggling to break Minnesota's press, Trevon Hughes finally saw Bohannon wide-open on the other side of half court. Once he caught the pass, Bohannon dashed toward the rim for the lay-up, but Minnesota's Paul Carter blocked the attempt and the Gophers would then hit a three on the other end to cut the lead to one.

"He knows he should have shot faked," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "That's hindsight though. But, you know, if you get the quick score on that, that would put us in great position. He thought he could get there quickly enough to get the sure two, he'd like to have it back. But that kid made a heck of a play, so we don't get it back."

The ugly:

The collapse: It is something that is not supposed to happen at the Kohl Center. When the Badgers amass a double-digit lead with less than five minutes to play, there are not many instances it fails to put its opponent away. But turnovers from Bohannon and Hughes, missed lay-up opportunities, poor transition defense and some clutch Minnesota shooting allowed the Gophers to pull off the shocker.

UW had a 10-point lead with before Devron Bostick's free throw's cut it to eight with three and a half minutes to play. Even so, the Badgers were able to stay a comfortable distance ahead of Minnesota when it was up by six with 48 seconds to play. But the stars aligned perfectly for the Gophers for the first time in a decade and a half in Madison.

"We just made some poor decisions as a team collectively," Bohannon said. "I had some, Trevon had some, everyone had some and we have to correct that. It was tough to handle, they did a good job pressuring, but we should have still been able to break it and made smarter decisions."

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