MINNEAPOLIS -- It didn't matter that the Minnesota offense wasn't clicking Thursday night. Not with the way the Gophers played defense in a 58-53 overtime victory over No. 20 Wisconsin.
The Gophers held the Badgers without a field goal during the final six minutes of regulation and the first 4:49 of overtime. Wisconsin missed 12 shots in a row and was 1-for-14 with four turnovers in that 11-minute stretch. That allowed Minnesota to close the game on a 15-6 run and secure an important victory.
That down-the-stretch defense had been missing from the Gophers (18-7, 6-6 Big Ten) as they lost six of eight games and went from being ranked in the nation's top 10 to being unranked. That ability to win a game with defense was part of the reason the Gophers were so pleased after the game.
"It was very satisfying," Austin Hollins
said. "We sat down, we switched when we need to, we contested shots, we played good post defense."
Said Minnesota coach Tubby Smith: "We had gotten away from playing good defense. I don't know why."
The importance of the game wasn't lost on the Gophers.
"The sky was falling around here," Smith said. "They wanted it, but we had to have it."
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for No. 20 Wisconsin (17-8, 8-4) and didn't allow the Badgers to build on Saturday's win over Michigan.
While the Gophers won because of their defense, the offense of Andre Hollins
was certainly crucial.
With Wisconsin making it difficult for Minnesota to score, Andre Hollins knew he had to be more aggressive offensively and attack the basket more. Andre Hollins scored 11 of Minnesota's final 17 points and scored 21 points to lead the Gophers. Austin Hollins added 11 points and Rodney Williams scored 10 for Minnesota.
"I'm the best shooter on the the team, the coaches want me to shoot more," Andre Hollins said. "They wanted me to be a little more aggressive."
Andre Hollins was the first to score in overtime and his 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:37 to play gave the Gophers a 52-49 lead. Trevor Mbakwe hit a pair of free throws with 1:32 to play in overtime, stretching Minnesota's lead to 54-49.
"Hitting that three takes the pressure off," Andre Hollins said. "You know they're going to have to hit a three to tie the game. ... It was a good kick-start for us."
Sam Dekker scored 14 points to lead the Badgers while Ben Brust added 11.
When Dekker made a pair of free throws with 1:20 to play in overtime, Wisconsin scored for the first time in more than eight minutes.
"We just did not hit free throws and had a couple tough turnovers," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.
Minnesota got the game to overtime when Joe Coleman made a pair of free throws with 17.4 seconds to play, tying the game 49-49. Wisconsin had a chance to win the game on the final possession of regulation, but the Badgers didn't get a clean look at the basket. Traevon Jackson took an off-balance runner at the horn, but it didn't fall.
Ryan was critical of the play of his freshman point guard down the stretch of regulation.
"He really struggled," Ryan said. "He could not complete the play. He tried to draw some contact. He just did not make good decisions finishing. I thought he could get to the rim (on the last play)."
Minnesota made two field goals over the final 7:40 of regulation, but that was enough to extend the game. The Gophers closed within two, 49-47, when Austin Hollins found Williams for a dunk on a high-low post entry for a key basket with 1:52 to play.
The two teams traded the lead several times in the second half before Dekker twice hit 3-pointers that allowed the Badgers to regain the lead. The second gave Wisconsin a 43-41 lead with 8:33 to play. The two long-range jumpers started a 12-4 Badgers run. When Ryan Evans made one of two free throws with 5:08 to play, Wisconsin stretched its lead to six, 49-43.
The Badgers, however, wouldn't score again in regulation.
NOTES: Wisconsin is the only team in the country that has two wins over teams ranked in the nation's top four, defeating Indiana and Michigan. ... The Badgers have won 20 of the past 26 games against Minnesota. Bo Ryan has a 16-5 record against the Gophers. ... Williams returned to action and started against the Badgers. He missed Sunday's loss to Illinois with a shoulder injury. ... Ranked No. 8 nationally on Jan. 7, Minnesota is one of two teams ranked in the top 10 that week that have fallen all of the way out of the top 25. Missouri is the other. ... Starting with Sunday's game against Ohio State, the Badgers will play three of their next four at home. ... Minnesota plays its next two on the road -- at Iowa and at the Buckeyes.
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