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Badgers Win Rematch with Gophers
February 6, 2019

Retired baseball pitcher Bob Tewksbury has written an entire book to prove his thesis that success in athletic endeavors is determined by factors that are 90 percent mental. Tewksbury was not in the audience for the game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Minnesota Golden Gophers, but he might have recognized the funk that befell the home team at Williams Arena before a rabid sellout crowd.

With 1:16 remaining and the Badgers ahead by 52-46, Minnesota players had three clear three-point shots at the familiar rims and in the friendly confines of their home arena and threw up bricks. Here’s how it went:

***1:16 left. Amir Coffey, three-point shot. Missed.

***:37 left. DuPree McBrayer, three-point shot. Missed.

***:28 left. Gabe Kalescheur, three-point shot. Missed.

Therein lies the story of the game. The Gophers could not hit shots when baskets and points were needed. Meanwhile, Brevin Pritzl and Brad Davison were making free throws for the Badgers. Wisconsin won 56-51.

After defeating Wisconsin by 59 to 52 in their own building on January 3, it was natural to think the Gophers would enter the rematch feeling cocky and confident, but all confidence dissolved in the face of the tough Badgers.

Coach Greg Gard wants his players to perform like mechanical men (but in a good way) as they methodically run set plays to a perfection peak that would make old Doc Meanwell proud. Led by All-American Ethan Happ, the Badgers won’t win style points, but they accomplish their assigned tasks with android-like precision.

“We made enough plays down the stretch to shut the door on them,” Gard observed after the game. “It was a gritty win for us. We were patient inside and out of the lane.” He noted that Happ was the team leader. “He’s at the center of everything we do. He’s better than last year because he has experienced players around him.”

As for Happ, he couldn’t resist taking a jab at Gopher Nation. “I have never lost a game in this building,” he said. “I wish to thank Minnesota for the hospitality.”

The Gophers helped by “going cold,” according to Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino. “We had good looks at the basket, but we couldn’t make our shots.” The Gophers were one of 13 from three-point land (7.7 percent).

“Wisconsin forces you to play a half-court game. They’re very physical, and Happ is one terrific defender,”

For such a physical team, it was a near miracle that the Badgers had exactly zero fouls in the first half. Referees Terry Oglesby, Larry Scirotto, and Courtney Green must of huddled at halftime and decided that his could not continue. Wisconsin finished with 16 fouls called.

This was the rubber game for the Minnesota/Wisconsin series dating back to 1900 when the Gophers won by 18-15. The series had been tied at 96 wins, but the Badgers now have the advantage 97-96.

At times, the most recent game in the series resembled the first. Wisconsin took a 24-21 halftime lead, and, for a time, it looked like the Gophers would not reach the 40 mark in the second period. Minnesota never led, and the score was tied only twice (3-3 and 19-19).

Jordan Murphy was the only starting Gopher not stricken by malaise, scoring 19 points and hauling down 13 rebounds. Daniel Oturu came off the bench to score 11 points to go with eight boards.

Happ led the Badgers with 15 points and 13 rebounds, followed by the usual cast of Wisconsin droids scoring from 10 to six points each.

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