Overview: Wisconsin point guard Jordan Taylor was on a mission Thursday night. The Twin Cities native had never won at The Barn in his four-year career.
But he was determined to get his first W at Williams Arena in his final opportunity.
The senior went 4-for-4 from the 3-point line in the first half and scored 14 points as the Badgers took a 32-24 lead into the break.
Taylor hit another big 3 with 17 minutes to play that opened a double-digit lead (37-26) for the Badgers, who went 7-for-11 from beyond the arc in the first half.
The Gophers put up a fight down the stretch and closed the gap to 51-46 with 4:10 on the clock on a Rodney Williams layup. Freshman Andre Hollins cut Wisconsin’s lead to two points with 2:10 to go. Austin Hollins tied the game with a pair of free throws with 1:02 to play, all during a seven-minute scoring drought for the Badgers.
The Gophers had a chance to win the game on the final possession but missed their final two shots in regulation. In overtime, the Badgers found success at the free throw line and outscored the Gophers 17-10 in the extra period.
Star of the night: Jordan Taylor scored 27 points in his final game at The Barn, once again showing local fans what they lost when the state’s former Mr. Basketball chose to play for Bo Ryan’s squad. Even though he was quiet down the stretch, his strong start sparked the Badgers, and he hit key free throws in overtime.
Things to know: This is a major rivalry in this region. Three of Bo Ryan’s starters are from Minnesota. But the Badgers had lost their previous two games at The Barn.
Stat of the night: The No. 22 Badgers failed to score for the final 7 minutes, 44 seconds of regulation. After making seven of 11 3-point attempts in the first half, the Badgers made two of 12 after halftime.
What it means: With the Badgers having lost to Ohio State on Saturday and traveling to East Lansing, Mich., to play the Spartans next week, Wisconsin needed a win Thursday. A loss would have set up the serious possibility of another three-game losing skid. For a team that’s playing for a seed -- in both the NCAA and Big Ten tourneys -- and still trying to keep its Big Ten title hopes alive, Thursday’s game was crucial.
With three of their next four home games against nationally ranked teams, the Gophers can stay on the bubble and potentially play their way into the tournament, which would be a remarkable development for a young team that lost its best player (Trevor Mbakwe) to a season-ending knee injury in November. They also could tumble down the standings. You just never know with a team that depends on so many young players.