The Kohl Center has been an unfriendly place for Minnesota to visit since opening in 1998. Off to one of their best starts in school history, though, the Gophers are looking to end their road woes against Wisconsin.
Making its first trip to Madison as a ranked team since 1999, No. 18 Minnesota tries to halt a 12-game losing streak there on Thursday when it meets the Badgers.
Minnesota (15-1, 3-1 Big Ten) hasn’t won a road game against Wisconsin (12-4, 3-1) since a 109-78 victory on Feb. 12, 1994, a win that was later wiped out due to NCAA sanctions imposed on the program. The Gophers have never beaten the Badgers at the Kohl Center, losing nine in a row there by an average of 14.4 points.
This is the first time, however, that a ranked Gophers team is playing an unranked Wisconsin squad in Madison since 1997, when the Badgers upset then-No. 2 Minnesota 66-65.
Minnesota enters having won three straight since losing 70-58 to then-No. 10 Michigan State on Dec. 31, beating Penn State 79-59 on Sunday. Devron Bostick scored 19 points while Paul Carter added 14 for the Gophers, who shot a season-high 62.5 percent from the field and were 9-of-9 from 3-point range.
Bostick and Carter both transferred from junior colleges and say they’re still getting used to coach Tubby Smith’s offense.
“Coming from where we came from in junior college, we were the main options,” Carter said. “So the ball was going through us. It was one-on-one situations and that’s how we’re used to playing. In this offense, you’re coming off screens, you’re curling, you’re popping off pick-and-rolls, so that was the only challenge for us.”
Smith’s offense gives players like Carter and Bostick the chance to step up. Lawrence Westbrook is the only player on Minnesota averaging in double figures with 12.8 points, but five others average more than 6.0 per game and 11 are averaging more than 11 minutes of playing time.
“They know that we trust the system. If they just move the ball and play the right way, it really doesn’t matter to me who is shooting it. It’s the team that wins,” Smith said. “I usually tell guys, you actually just had the ball in your hand and it just so happened that it went through the hoop. But guess what? We all get credit for it because you couldn’t play by yourself.
“I think we’re starting to get that mentality and that attitude.”
Minnesota will try to hand the Badgers their first back-to-back losses in nearly two years. Wisconsin is looking to bounce back after falling 65-52 to then-No. 14 Purdue on Sunday, its fourth loss in five games against ranked opponents this season.
Joe Krabbenhoft scored 13 points and added seven rebounds while leading scorer Marcus Landry (12.8) was held to nine points on 3-of-15 shooting. The Badgers shot 37.5 percent from the field, scoring their fewest points of the season.
“We take it one game at a time,” Krabbenhoft said. “There’s the big picture right there. We take it game-by-game, and we’ll just see how things end up at the end of the season.”
Wisconsin is 8-1 at home, losing 74-69 to then-No. 9 Texas on Dec. 23. Against conference opponents, it is 56-3 at the Kohl Center since 2002.
The Badgers haven’t dropped consecutive games since losing to Michigan State and Ohio State in February 2007.