MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Check off another big step in the Tubby Smith resurgence at Minnesota: A rare road victory at Wisconsin—in overtime, no less.
Lawrence Westbrook made a game-tying 3-pointer with 2 seconds left in regulation, then led the 18th-ranked Gophers in overtime to a 78-74 win Thursday night.
Westbrook scored 29 to lead the Gophers (16-1, 4-1 Big Ten), then pronounced the victory even bigger for the program than an earlier win over Louisville.
“I think this is the biggest win, because we were never losing against Louisville,” Westbrook said. “(The Badgers) were killing us, to be honest with you.”
Wisconsin was leading by as many as 14 points early in the second half and had a comfortable nine-point lead with 3:24 left. But Minnesota used its full-court press defense to get back in the game and got the big shot by Westbrook to send it to overtime.
“I thought our comeback was just nothing short of just, I don’t know,” Smith said. “It was just a great effort on our kids to hang in there. They showed a lot of moxie, a lot of toughness. And they made some clutch plays. That’s what it takes to beat a good team like Wisconsin.”
Marcus Landry scored 18 to lead the Badgers (12-5, 3-2), who have lost two straight.
But losing at Purdue is one thing. Losing at home—to anyone—is quite another.
It’s only the ninth loss at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin’s eight seasons under coach Bo Ryan, and the Badgers’ fourth Big Ten loss at home under Ryan.
Minnesota’s rough run at Wisconsin predates even Ryan’s arrival. The Gophers hadn’t won at Wisconsin since Feb. 12, 1994—and even that win was tainted by the academic scandal under former coach Clem Haskins. Minnesota’s last win at Wisconsin that officially counts in the school’s record books was exactly 17 years ago, on Jan. 15, 1992.
Smith was aware of the streak, but only vaguely.
“I do not focus a lot on that,” Smith said. “We are concerned about today.”
The streak seemed destined to continue with 3:24 left and the Badgers leading by nine. But Minnesota stole the game as the Gophers’ press got the best of the Badgers.
“Coach said in the locker room that we wilted under pressure,” Landry said. “And we did.”
Asked what his team was missing against the press down the stretch, Ryan snapped, “The fact that the other team got their hands on it.”
Still, Wisconsin led by three after a pair of free throws by Joe Krabbenhoft with 15.2 seconds left in regulation. But with the clock running down, Westbrook faked his way past a defender to hit the game-tying shot.
“I knew it was going in,” Westbrook said. “As soon as Blake (Hoffarber) gave me the ball, before I shot it, I knew it was going in. There was no way I was going to miss it.”
Westbrook didn’t stop there, converting a three-point play and hitting a jumper early in overtime.
“I just wanted to get aggressive,” Westbrook said. “I knew I was going to take over the game, so I just got hot and my teammates found me.”
Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer hit a 3-pointer to cut the Gophers’ lead to 74-70 with 23.5 seconds left, then hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to two with 11.4 left.
But Westbrook then went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 10.5 seconds, holding off the Badgers’ own late comeback attempt.
After Westbrook’s pair of makes with 10.5 left, Bohannon hit a layup to again cut the lead to two. Westbrook hit two more from the line, and Bohannon’s miss ended the game for the Badgers.
Bohannon scored 16 and Trevon Hughes added 14 for the Badgers. But Hughes finished the game 3-for-11 from the field with six turnovers.
“He’s struggling,” Ryan said. “He’s just got to gather himself and try to correct the decision-making, things like that, and we’ll try to help him. That’s what we’re here for.”