MADISON - It took a last minute jumper from Traevon Jackson and a missed free throw by Rodney Williams, but the Wisconsin Badgers clawed out of a terrible shooting performance and found a way to beat the No. 12 Minnesota Golden Gophers 45-44 Saturday afternoon in the Kohl Center.
On a day where the Badgers as a whole had a rough night from the floor, their defense held the Gophers to a season-low 44 points and gave them a chance to pull themselves out of some rough shooting stretches. The Badgers had three scoring droughts of at least two and a half minutes in the game, but they were able to get points when it mattered most, including with four seconds left in the game when Jackson beat the shot clock by milliseconds with his last minute field goal.
"I didn't have any doubt [about taking the shot]," Jackson said after the game. "Luckily my teammates were able to get me open, and I was able to knock it down."
Jackson's shot rolled around the basket before dropping through the net, but the sophomore point guard said he knew the shot would fall after he put it up in the air.
"You can kind of tell when the ball is going to take a bad roll or a good roll. It hit a little bit of the front rim and the back rim, and it went in," Jackson said.
Jackson finished the game with nine points, and Ryan Evans and Sam Dekker combined to lead the team with 10 points each. However, the rest of Wisconsin's senior-laden frontcourt had trouble getting on the board in the game. The Gophers held Jared Berggren to just two points, and shut out Mike Bruesewitz on three shots from the floor. But Wisconsin's underclassmen were able to bail out the seniors by combining for 27 points, including eight from redshirt freshman George Marshall.
Much like their recent loss to Michigan State, the Badgers couldn't get their shots to fall for most of the game. As a team they shot just 37 percent from the floor, including 31.8 percent from behind the arc. That's mostly due to a rough second half, where the Badgers shot just 30 percent from the floor. Head coach Bo Ryan said the team has been shooting so poorly that they won't need to replace their nets any time soon, but they were able to pull the game out thanks to a good effort on defense.
"Financially we're saving a lot of money at the university because our nets last 10 years," Ryan said. "These nets this year will be around 10 years where they'll last a year or two."
The Badgers held the Gophers to just 34.8 percent shooting from the floor, and beat them on the glass 35-29 in the game. The Badgers limited the Gophers to just one offensive rebound in the first half, and as a whole they were able to prevent the Gophers from getting second-chance points.
"That's a very good rebounding team that we just hung with and did a very good job competing with them," Ryan said. "That's where the game was won for us- defensively and on the glass."
And even though the win wasn't pretty, it snapped a two-game losing streak for the Badgers dating back to last week. At 5-2 in conference play, the Badgers are still in striking distance of a regular season Big Ten title, and Evans said that he thinks it's only a matter of time before their offense starts to click down the stretch.
"Our defense has gotten quite a bit better, and the offense is coming," Evans said. "It's about peaking at the right time. We can get wins like this on the defensive end- how do you think it's going to be when we start to get the offense going? I think we've been notorious for peaking at the right time as a team, and I know that's coming."
Up next, the Badgers will travel to Columbus, Ohio, for a game with the No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes. The two teams are currently tied for fourth place in the Big Ten, and a win for either team would likely solidify their spot near the top of the conference standings. The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. CST.