Playing in their first Big Ten tournament game, true freshmen Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig weren't…
Game Day Grades: Minnesota
Offense: A It was a complete success for Wisconsin's offense against a Minnesota team who was looking to solidify its NCAA Tournament chances. But due to Wisconsin shooting 54.5 percent on 30-for-55 shooting from the field, the Badgers put the game out of reach early on in the second half. Ben Brust led all scorers with a career-high 29 points on 8-for-15 shooting. The senior was clicking on all cylinders: finding ways to attack the rim and knocking down his shot from three (finishing 4-for-10). Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig gave a big lift off the bench by scoring 15 and 14 points, respectively. Sam Dekker reached double figures for the first time in three games when he finished with 10 points. Even though Wisconsin shot the basketball so effectively, Minnesota was able to force Wisconsin into seven turnovers, three of which came off of steals. Traevon Jackson, who didn't score in the game, coughed the basketball up twice in the first two minutes of the game, which ended up being his only two turnovers. With Wisconsin able to create an inside-outside game, it allowed for driving lanes that the Badgers took advantage by getting to the free throw line consistently. UW finished the game 13-for-21 (61.9 percent). Even though Wisconsin found ways to get to the free throw line, the Badgers need to be able to knock them down because they are leaving free points on the court. Defense: A It was clear early on that Minnesota was going to try and get the basketball down low to see if they could get some easy points in the paint, but Wisconsin wasn't going to budge and were able to contest any shot. UW gave up 22 points in the paint but more impressively finished with seven blocks. Frank Kaminsky had a team leading three blocks. Kaminsky and Hayes were active throughout in the paint. Even if they couldn't block it they were able to force the offensive player to switch up their shot, which resulted in a miss. Josh Gasser, Jackson, Koenig and the rest of the team were able to step up and hold Minnesota leading scorer Andre Hollins to eight points, as well as holding Austin Hollins to five points on 1-for-6 shooting. All of Andre Hollins eight points came in the second half, and he finished the game 2-for-14 shooting from the field. With the Hollins duo struggling to score the basketball, along with Wisconsin taking the paint away, it prevented Minnesota from getting into any offensive rhythm. Deandre Mathieu led Minnesota with 18 points on 7-for-16 shooting from the floor, but the Gophers finished 19-for-58 (32.8 percent) from the field. Besides consistently challenging shots, Wisconsin did a great job of taking away passing lanes and recorded seven steals. Brust had a team-high three and Gasser had two. Wisconsin was able to convert the Gophers nine miscues into 15 points. Overall: A It's pretty impressive what kind of offensive performance Wisconsin had considering Jackson and Gasser failed to score in the game and Kaminsky finished with six points. But even with the trio struggling, Koenig and Hayes were able to step up and replace their production. Koenig finished with a career-high 14 points on 5-for-5 shooting, which included hitting all four of his 3-point shots. Koenig also was able to dish out three assists to one turnover, had three rebounds and one block. Koenig was under control the entire game and was able to do a great job of finding his open teammates. Hayes was able to find different ways to attack the Gophers defense. His first made shot of the game was from mid-range, which was able to set himself up to do almost anything on the offensive end. If Hayes' defender was playing off of him, he could drive to the hoop and draw the foul. If Minnesota played him tight, he was able to knock down his shot or find one of his open teammates. With Minnesota having no answer for Hayes down low, he was able to score seven straight points, all off of layups, which put Wisconsin up by 17 with less then five minutes to go in the game. Even though Kaminsky had a rough shooting night (3-for-9 from the field), he was a key reason in helping Wisconsin out rebound Minnesota 40-34, grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds. Kaminsky in particular ripped down 11 defensive rebounds, making sure the Gophers wouldn't get any second chances on the offensive end. Game MVP: Ben Brust. For as good as Koenig and Hayes were off the bench, it's hard not to give it to Brust and his career high in points, which was his fourth 20-point performance on the year. Brust was able to feed off the success of Koenig and Hayes and was able to take advantage of what the Gophers gave him. Not only did he have success offensively, but he played a good defensive game with three steals. He also dished out two assists and grabbed three rebounds. Brust throughout the game helped Wisconsin build a lead over Minnesota and answer any of the runs the Gophers through at them.
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