Minnesota-Wisconsin Preview

The Associated Press

While tough defense and clutch shooting has Wisconsin back in the Top 25, the Badgers had a difficult time getting stops the last time they faced Minnesota.

The Golden Gophers are looking to sweep their rivals after putting an end to their longest skid of the season.

It'll take a rare victory in Madison to get it done, as the 21st-ranked Badgers go for their 16th win in 17 home meetings while dealing Minnesota its fifth straight road loss overall Thursday night.

Since dropping five of six to fall out of the AP Poll after climbing as high as third, Wisconsin (19-5, 6-5 Big Ten) bounced back with a 75-63 victory at Illinois on Feb. 4 and a 60-58 home win over No. 9 Michigan State on Sunday.

The Badgers, who rank third in the Big Ten with 63.1 points allowed per game, limited the Spartans - the conference's second-highest scoring team (77.7 ppg) - to nearly 20 points below their season average.

Traevon Jackson finished with just seven points while matching a career high with eight assists, but hit a pull-up jumper with 2.1 seconds left to help Wisconsin avoid losing four straight at home for the first time since 1987.

''That's sort of what they expected out of me is just to finish the game,'' Jackson said. ''The pull-up was there, and I was blessed to be able to make it go in.''

After going through a 12-of-45 shooting slump, the junior guard has shot 7 for 12 while totaling 21 points in the back-to-back victories. He also made a go-ahead jumper with four seconds remaining in a 45-44 win over Minnesota in the most recent meeting in Madison on Jan. 26, 2013.

Nigel Hayes finished with a team-best 14 points Sunday, giving him an average of 15.0 on 14-of-19 shooting in his last three games. The freshman forward also scored 12 while making 5 of 7 shots in an 81-68 loss at Minnesota on Jan. 22.

Sam Dekker led the then-No. 9 Badgers with 20 points and six boards in that contest. The sophomore forward has totaled 34 points in his last two games against Minnesota (16-8, 5-6).

The Badgers, the conference's third-best 3-point shooting team at 37.0 percent, made just 5 of 20 from beyond the arc as the Gophers handed them their most lopsided loss of the season.

Wisconsin also hopes to put up a better effort defensively after giving up its highest field-goal percentage (58.9) and second-most points in the first matchup.

DeAndre Mathieu and Maurice Walker each finished with 18 points for Minnesota, which outscored the Badgers 48-24 in the paint.

On Saturday, Mathieu scored 16 and Walker had 14 points and eight boards to help the Gophers rally from six down at the half and snap a three-game losing streak with a 66-60 home win over Indiana. They had lost to Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue by a total of eight points.

"We just need to play hard and control the other team off the dribble and away from rebounds," Walker said. "If we are able to execute our game plan, like we did in the second half, good things will happen."

Now they'll try to win away from home for the first time since Jan. 8. The Gophers' only victory in their last 16 visits to Madison was a 78-74 overtime win in January 2009 that led to a two-game sweep of that season series.

Minnesota is 2-3 against ranked opponents, but has dropped five straight on the road in those matchups dating to last season.

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