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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Ford Sports

The Badgers struggled to shoot in Brooklyn, shooting 17 percent from behind the arc in the two games. 

Riding high after its upset over Purdue, Wisconsin welcomes struggling Minnesota to Kohl Center

The Wisconsin men’s basketball team (5-10 Big Ten, 12-16 overall) has seen more than its fair share of downs in what has turned out to be one of its most disappointing seasons in recent memory.

But as the Badgers welcome an equally downtrodden Minnesota (3-12, 14-14) team to the Kohl Center Monday night, they’ll be riding higher than at any other point this season.

Just 20 minutes after steadily raising the jersey of Frank Kaminsky to the rafters Thursday evening, the UW players found themselves engulfed by a sea of fans at center court as they collectively celebrated a massive upset of then-No. 6 Purdue. Now the Badgers are looking for a way to translate that energy into their first two-game winning streak in nearly two months.

“We've had some good games and then the next game we go out and look like a completely different team,” redshirt freshman forward Aleem Ford said. “Coach [Greg Gard] has talked about momentum. We had a good game, but today in practice you have to keep using that momentum and keep working so that we have the same energy that we did that night.”

It could be argued that UW’s shift in momentum began not against the Boilermakers, but four nights earlier, in the second half against Michigan. Down by 25 a quarter of the way through the second half, the Badgers stormed back to within seven before running out of time.

If UW is headed in the right direction, Minnesota is careening down the interstate going the other way. The Golden Gophers, who were once ranked as high as No. 12 in the AP Poll back in late November, have lost their last eight games by an average margin of 14.3 points and haven’t pieced together consecutive conference wins all year.

Much of that turmoil has been due to the season-long suspension of Reggie Lynch, compounded upon by shorter term injuries to Eric Curry (ACL), Dupree McBrayer (leg) and Amir Coffey (shoulder), who head coach Richard Pitino announced Saturday night would sit out the remainder of the season.

Lynch, Curry and Coffey will all be sidelined against UW, and McBrayer’s status remains up in the air. But despite the uncertainty, the Badgers haven’t altered their preparation — they want to play Wisconsin basketball the same way every night.

That being said, UW knows how dangerous players like Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy can be. Assistant coach Dean Oliver said the trick to slowing down the Golden Gophers is to key in on Mason in transition and in ball-screen situations.

“We have to be a great defensive team,” he said. “They can make things happen, especially in transition. Transition defense has got to be on point.”

The Badgers can’t earn themselves an at-large NCAA Tournament bid this season, and they know it. What they do in the final three games of the regular season won’t change that. But they know how quickly the switch can flip, and it will likely take just four wins in New York to take home a Big Ten Tournament trophy.

Should they take down Minnesota Monday night, they’ll need just two more wins to head into the tournament on riding their longest conference winning streak in more than a year. A hot team in the postseason is a dangerous beast, and March is just around the corner.

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