Feb. 9, 2012
BY BRIAN MASON
STAR OF THE GAME
Thursday’s rivalry clash at Williams Arena meant a lot to Jordan Taylor, and the senior point guard showed it in carrying the No. 21 Badgers to a 68-61 overtime win over Minnesota. A product of the Twin Cities, Taylor made the most of his final appearance in The Barn by dropping a game-high 27 points on the Gophers.
As sure-handed as they come, Taylor has made a career out of efficiently running the Badgers’ offense (he entered the night with just 66 turnovers in 65 career Big Ten games), but he actually finished with three turnovers and didn’t dish out a single assist. It didn’t matter. The former Minnesota Mr. Basketball made the Badgers go with his shot. He connected on 5-of-9 attempts from 3-point range -- including a 4-for-4 flurry in the first half to spark an eight-point lead at intermission. He also went 6-for-7 at the free throw line, grabbed three rebounds and swiped three steals.
A major hat-tip is also due to Ryan Evans, whose career night was major factor in securing the win. The junior notched his first career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds -- including four offensive boards. He also helped stuff the stat sheet with three assists, two steals, a block and a 7-for-8 showing at the free throw line.
PLAY OF THE GAME
There were some clutch plays late to seal a key road win, but the biggest play of the night happened early. Taylor started it and Evans finished it, but all five Badger had a hand in it. Coming out of the game’s first media timeout and against a full-court defensive look from Minnesota, Josh Gasser flipped an inbounds pass to Jared Berggren, who got the ball to Taylor deep in the backcourt. He fired a long pass to the opposite sideline for Mike Bruesewitz, who had streaked past half court unabated to set up a 2-on-1 opportunity with Minnesota’s Ralph Sampson III splitting him and Evans. Keeping the momentum rolling toward the basket, Bruesewitz bounced a pass to Evans, who picked up the ball on the right block and threw down a thunderous one-handed slam over Sampson.
TURNING POINT OF THE GAME
The Badgers finally stemmed the 15-2 run that Minnesota had used to force overtime when Gasser hit a pair of free throws just over a minute into the extra period. Any points were welcome after Wisconsin failed to score over the final 7:36 of regulation, but Gasser’s tosses still gave UW just a two-point edge. That’s when Evans stepped in to help make the lead a little less tenuous. After Gasser misfired on a 3-pointer at the 3:10 mark, Evans crashed the glass to grab an offensive board that he converted into a second-chance basket. The bucket gave UW a two-possession lead that Minnesota was never able to whittle below four points the rest of the way.
STAT OF THE GAME
Mistakes are magnified when you’re playing on the road. An extra premium is placed on playing a fundamentally-sound game. Faced with the hostile environment of Williams Arena, the Badgers responded with an 21-for-25 (.840) performance at the free throw line -- including a 15-for-17 showing in overtime. That led to a 12-point advantage in scoring at the stripe that allowed the Badgers to walk away with their sixth true road win of the season.