The Minnesota Gophers played once again without three of their top players, after they were suspended for the remainder of the season. The Wisconsin Badgers jumped out early, built a comfortable lead and cruised to a 62-49 victory at Williams Arena.
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said his team played OK, and he would have liked to see more efficiency on offense.
What he got was pretty good balance from his team, with six players scoring at least six points as the Badgers (20-10, 12-5), won for the 11th time in the last 12 games and are tied with Michigan State (25-5, 12-5) for second place in the Big Ten with one game left to play.
Wisconsin will face one more road game on Sunday, at Purdue (23-7, 11-6). But the victory over the Gophers assured the Badgers of a top four finish for the 15th straight season.
Bronson Koenig had 14 points (12 in the 1st half) to lead the Badgers. Vitto Brown added 12 points, Zak Showalter had eight points and Nigel Hayes added six points and seven rebounds.
Reserve Khalil Iverson added six points off the bench, although it would have been more had he not missed a showboat windmill dunk when the ball slipped out of his hands on the way up. That miss got Iverson a seat on the bench and a short talking to by Greg Gard.
What Gard didn’t like about his team’s performance was too many short-range misses in the second half and then they made just four of 10 free throws.
That allowed the Gophers to cut a 21-point deficit to just 12 points (53-41). But Vitto Brown drilled a three-pointer and the Badgers had a comfortable cushion back.
Now it’s on to Purdue for the Big Ten finale on Sunday. The Boilermakers beat the Badgers in the Big Ten opener back on December 29th, 61-55.