(13) Wisconsin 68, Minnesota 67: Last word

No. 13 Wisconsin moved back into a tie for first place in the Big Ten with a 68-67 win at Minnesota on Wednesday night.

Player of the Game: Steven Crowl

Making his return to his home state, the Badgers big man put together perhaps the best game of his young career. He dropped a team-high 20 points (7-for-9 FGs) and had seven rebounds. The 7-footer had a hand in 10 of Wisconsin’s final 16 points, including going 4-for-4 from the free throw line.

This year has not always been easy for the sophomore, especially when facing the likes of Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn and Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson. But he has kept fighting and improved as the year has gone on. Wednesday was just the latest example.

The good: Doing it without Davis

Wisconsin has counted on Johnny Davis to close games all year. It is one of the reasons the team’s record in close games is so good. But the Badgers were forced to play the final 2:35 of the game without their star after he picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in a matter of 15 seconds. At the time he left, UW was clinging to a 62-61 lead. Led by Crowl, Brad Davison and Jordan Davis, the Badgers were able to hold off the Gophers, showing the fight and resolve they’ve shown all year, but this time without counting on one of the best players in the country.

The not so good: Turnovers

Few teams take care of the ball better than Wisconsin, so when it has 12 turnovers people take notice. The sloppiness really showed up in the second half as the Badgers had six turnovers in the first 10 minutes and finished with eight for the half. Minnesota turned the turnovers into 11 points. With Wisconsin’s margin for error being so thin, every possession must be treasured. The team didn’t always treat them that way Wednesday.

Stat of the Game: 10

That is how many offensive rebounds Wisconsin had, including a vital one from Tyler Wahl in the final minute to give the Badgers another chance to make it a two-possession game. They turned those second chances into 11 points.

In Case You Missed It

— Wisconsin played without guards Jahcobi Neath (suspended) and Lorne Bowman (non-COVID illness). That forced coach Greg Gard to turn to Jordan Davis and he more than delivered. The sophomore scored a career-high seven points, while also posting two rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes of action.

— Gard did not have an update on Bowman and said he’s unsure if they’ll have him against Rutgers on Saturday. Bowman has now missed the last two games.

— After the game, Gard was asked if he would have handled things differently in the lead up to the post-game altercation against Michigan on Sunday. He didn’t say yes or no, only that hindsight is 20-20. He did praise the leadership of athletic director Chris McIntosh and the rest of the administration in their support for him and the players.

— Wisconsin has three Minnesota natives in the starting lineup — Crowl, Davison and Wahl. That trio combined for 39 points.

— Wisconsin improved to 13-1 in games decided by six points or fewer.

— With the win, Wisconsin now leads the all-time series against Minnesota (105-104) for the first time since 1971. The Badgers are 29-8 against the Gophers under Bo Ryan/Greg Gard.

— Wisconsin pulled even with Purdue for first in the Big Ten at 13-4. Illinois is sitting a ½ game back.

What’s next?

The Badgers (22-5, 13-4) will travel to Rutgers (16-11, 10-7) on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights beat Wisconsin in Madison earlier in February.