WISCONSIN BADGERS (17-7)
at MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (17-7)
Williams Arena - Minneapolis, MN
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Minnesota -5.5, Total: 118.5
No. 20 Wisconsin goes for a fifth straight series win over Minnesota when the two Big Ten foes meet at "The Barn" on Thursday night.
Wisconsin is also riding a three-game win streak, scoring an uncharacteristic 71.0 PPG during this win surge. Eight of the 11 Big Ten games for the Badgers have been decided by six points or less, including a 45-44 home win over the Gophers on Jan. 26. Traevon Jackson's 15-footer with four seconds left was the difference in that matchup. This defeat was part of Minnesota's 2-6 SU mark in its past eight games following its 15-1 SU start to this season. The Badgers are 17-4 SU in the past 21 meetings with the Gophers.
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Wisconsin plays at a slow and methodical pace on offense, scoring just 67.4 PPG (177th in nation) on 42.7% FG (202nd in D-I). But this is a big reason why the Badgers give up a mere 56.5 PPG (11th in nation) on 30.4% threes to opponents, and commit the second-fewest turnovers (9.4 TOPG) in the country. During the four-game series win streak, Wisconsin has allowed the Gophers to score just 52.5 PPG. C Jared Berggren leads the Badgers with 11.9 PPG and 1.9 BPG, while adding 6.8 RPG. But he makes just 28.8% of his threes and scored just two points (1-of-7 FG) in last month's win over Minnesota. SF SF Ryan Evans (10.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG) had 10 points and eight rebounds in that meeting, but has been slumping ever since that game with a 32% FG clip and brutal 48% FT (11-for-23). SG Ben Brust (11.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG) was the hero in Saturday's upset win over then-No. 3 Michigan, hitting a near-halfcourt shot to tie the score at the end of regulation, then hitting a big three in overtime as part of a 14-point night in the 65-62 win. He's averaged 17.3 PPG during his team's three-game win streak.
Minnesota's offense has been dreadful in the past six contests, scoring just 56.8 PPG and making less than 40% in the four losses, when the team scored 48, 44, 50 and 53 points. The Gophers are coming off another tough loss on Sunday to Illinois in which they led by 12 points in the first half, but shot 38% FG for the game and lost 57-53. The Gophers are a deep, unselfish team though, averaging 39.4 RPG (20th in D-I) and 15.5 APG (35th in nation). SG Andre Hollins (13.8 PPG, 3.5 APG) lit up the Badgers for 20 points on 7-of-13 FG last month, but he has gone cold during the team's two-game losing skid, scoring just 9.5 PPG on 6-of-21 FG. SF Rodney Williams (11.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG) missed Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, and is questionable for this contest. Although he shoots a dreadful 27% from three-point range, Williams has made 55% of his two-point FG tries this season. Senior PF Trevor Mbakwe (9.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG) grabbed 10 rebounds in the loss in Madison and has 12.0 RPG during the team's current two-game skid. He also netted 13 points in Sunday's defeat versus Illinois, breaking a skid of four straight games of scoring less than 10 points.