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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Pritzl, Davison star for Badgers as UW survives against Minnesota

On the first day of February, Brevin Pritzl missed all eleven of his shots in an eight-point loss to Northwestern. Monday night, Pritzl proved that the shooting woes that had plagued him less than three weeks ago were behind him.

The redshirt sophomore guard set a new career-high with 20 points in Wisconsin’s (6-10 Big Ten, 13-16 overall) 73-63 overtime victory over Minnesota (3-13, 14-15). The Badgers’ defense held the Golden Gophers to only one field goal in the final 10:58 of the contest, and on the offensive end of the floor, Pritzl did almost everything else.

But to head coach Greg Gard, Pritzl’s offense was a direct result of his defense.

Gard noted that two months ago, he couldn’t trust Pritzl to stay on the floor for long stretches of the game without having a breakdown. He’s seen Pritzl become a better rebounder, dive for more loose balls and show more toughness on the floor.

“His shooting I think has been a byproduct of him being engaged in the game in other areas,” Gard said. “He’s been growing in those other areas and now is becoming a more reliable, dependable, consistent player.”

Pritzl added that Gard has continued to instill confidence in him. And through his struggles, redshirt junior Ethan Happ has continued telling Pritzl to fire away from deep when he’s open.

“I just did what I was told,” said Pritzl, who played 37 minutes off the bench Monday night.

And while the De Pere, Wis., native was key late in UW’s victory, freshman guard Brad Davison helped to kickstart the Badgers’ offense.

In a back-and-fourth first half, Davison led Wisconsin, scoring 14 of its 34 points in the first 11:21 of the game.

The Badgers took a one-point lead into the locker room, but allowed Minnesota to snatch the lead away just 17 seconds into the second half. As UW tried to claw back into the game, the Golden Gophers didn't fold. And with 5:58 to go in the second half, Jordan Murphy knocked down a 3-pointer to extend UM's lead to 58-51.

Minnesota’s offense would go nearly silent from there on out.

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Wisconsin held the Golden Gophers to only one point in the remaining 5:58 of regulation. And, as each Minnesota shot missed the mark, the Kohl Center crowd became increasingly excited.

Still, with 14 seconds to play in the game, UW trailed by three points. But a free throw and an offensive rebound by junior forward Khalil Iverson gave Wisconsin a second chance to send the game into overtime.

Happ took advantage of the opportunity.

With less than six seconds to go in the game, Happ made only his second field goal to notch the score at 59 all.

A running layup by UM’s Nate Mason clipped the side of the rim as time expired, and the game headed to overtime.

Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino said his team wore down as the game progressed, which was evident as it took the Golden Gophers more than a minute to make their first, and only, field goal of the extra session.

Happ added four points in the extra session to finish the game with 10. Davison, after his hot start, ended one point shy of a career-high as he tacked on 19 points.

But it was Pritzl who received the loudest ovation of any player when he took a seat on the bench with 38 seconds to go in the game. Wisconsin was leading by eight.

“To get into overtime was basically just sticking together,” Happ said. “And then what won overtime was Brevin basically knocking down threes.”

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