Wisconsin-Minnesota Preview

The Associated Press

Bo Ryan's Wisconsin teams never have been accused of being too flashy, though his current squad seems to have a flare for the dramatics.

Such was the case in an ugly matchup with Minnesota last month.

Coming off an improbable victory, the 20th-ranked Badgers seek a fifth straight win over the struggling Golden Gophers when the Big Ten rivals meet Thursday night in Minneapolis.

Wisconsin's grind-it-out style and defense-first focus has been successful during Ryan's 12-season tenure, and this campaign has been no different. The Badgers (17-7, 8-3) lead the Big Ten allowing 56.5 points per game and have knocked off four ranked teams, including a pair of top-5 foes.

Eight of their 11 conference games have been decided by six points or fewer, including each during a three-game winning streak.

"We have a group of guys in that locker room that believe and is going to fight until the end until you tell us we can't play any more basketball," said forward Jared Berggren, who averages a team-best 11.9 points. "We just find a way to get it done."

That especially was the case Saturday as Ben Brust hit a running half-court shot as the regulation buzzer sounded to tie the game, then buried another big 3-pointer in overtime to help Wisconsin upset then-No. 3 Michigan 65-62.

"It was awesome, something I'll remember forever, and I'm sure a lot of people will," said Brust, who also scored 18 points and hit key free throws down the stretch in a 74-70 double-overtime win over Iowa in the team's previous game Feb. 6.

Even the business-like Ryan couldn't contain his emotion after Brust's buzzer-beater.

"I looked over and saw Coach Ryan actually put his arms up," forward Mike Bruesewitz said. "When he shows a little emotion, it means you've done something special."

Saturday marked yet another tight victory for Wisconsin, a list that includes a 45-44 home win over then-No. 12 Minnesota on Jan. 26. One of the few shots either team hit was Traevon Jackson's 15-footer with four seconds left to give the Badgers the win.

The Gophers (17-7, 5-6) shot 34.8 percent in that contest and have hit less than 40 percent in four of their last six while averaging 56.8 points.

They blew a 12-point first-half lead, trailed at the break and shot 38.0 percent in Sunday's 57-53 home loss to Illinois that dropped then-No. 18 Minnesota out of the Top 25.

"You're not going to win scoring 53 points," said coach Tubby Smith, whose team has dropped six of eight after beginning 15-1.

Andre Hollins scored 16 points and Trevor Mbakwe added 13 and 10 rebounds, though Mbakwe finished with four of the team's 13 turnovers, including a crucial giveaway with less than a minute remaining.

"I think we're trying to do too much," Smith said. "We've talked about it before and it's not being cautious. We found another way to lose the game instead of finding ways to win.

"If we could cut our turnovers in half we should be okay."

The Gophers are averaging 52.5 points and shooting 35.4 percent during their losing streak to the Badgers, who have won 17 of the last 21 meetings.

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