Badgers start March with key conference win over Minnesota
MADISON, Wisc. (AP) — A little more than a month into the season, Wisconsin was 5-5.
With a week to go in Big Ten play, the Badgers are one game out of first place.
Brad Davison scored 20 points and Brevin Pritzl added 15 as Wisconsin rallied from a late deficit to beat Minnesota 71-69 on Sunday night.
It wasn’t always pretty. Still, coach Greg Gard said it was emblematic of the grit his team has shown this season. Months before the season began, assistant coach Howard Moore was badly hurt in a car accident that killed his wife and one of his children.
Meanwhile, Micah Potter -- now a key reserve -- lost his appeals with the NCAA for immediate eligibility after transferring from Ohio State and couldn’t play until Dec. 21.
Then in late January, second-leading scorer Kobe King announced he was transferring.
But the Badgers (19-10, 12-6) have now won six straight and sit in a three-way tie for second place in the conference.
“This group has gone through more than any team that I’ve been around in 30 years, and I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve accomplished to this point,” Gard said. “The neat thing is they want more.”
For Minnesota (13-15, 7-11) it was a second straight loss in which they couldn’t hold onto a late lead.
Last week, it was blowing a 17-point lead over Maryland, which hit a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left to beat the Gophers. This time, it was watching a tough bounce and missed free throws sink their chances.
Davison missed a 3, but Aleem Ford tipped the rebound to the perimeter, setting off a scramble for the ball. D’Mitrik Trice came up with it, drove toward the top of the key and found Pritzl in the corner for a wide-open 3 that put the Badgers up 67-66 with less than a minute to go.
After giving up the lead on the next possession, Trice helped put the Badgers up for good with another good find, hitting a cutting Ford for an open dunk with 30.5 second left to grab a 69-68 lead.
Ford said Pritzl suggested the play during a timeout.
“That’s just a play that we had in the back of our pockets, and we executed it,” Pritzl said.
The Badgers had trouble stopping Daniel Oturu in the paint, where the Gophers had a 34-24 scoring advantage, and defending Marcus Carr’s straight-line drives. Oturu led Minnesota with 26 points and 12 rebounds, while Carr added 21 as they often carried the Gophers’ offense down the stretch.
But they couldn’t put them over the hump.