COLLEGE PARK, MD - FEBRUARY 13: Bronson Koenig #24 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates after hitting a shot in the second half against the Maryland Terrapins at Xfinity Center on February 13, 2016 in College Park, Maryland. Wisconsin won 70-57.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Border Battle not much of one, Badgers make easy work of Gophers

The Minnesota Gophers got called for the rare over-and-back on the opening tip, and little did we all know it was just a sign of things to come. Wisconsin immediately went on a 5-0 run and the were off to the races in a 62-49 beat down of their Border Battle rivals.

The win was Wisconsin’s 11th in its last 12 games, and ensured a 10th straight 20-win season for the program.

Point guard Bronson Koenig was the catalyst to start the game, and it was his entire first half performance that set the tone for a game that was never in doubt for the Badgers — who led wire-to-wire.

Koenig finished with 14 points to lead the Badgers offensive effort, but he wasn’t the only major contributor. He was joined in double figures by Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown, who had 12 points each.

Minnesota was led by walk-on starting point guard Stephon Sharp’s 16 points. He was joined in double figures by fellow freshman Jordan Murphy, who had 15 points in the losing effort on senior night at Williams Arena.

Things got so out of control that 11 players had gotten in to the contest before the halftime buzzer sounded and eventually the entire traveling squad saw at least a sliver of action.

Wisconsin is used to seeing teams go on runs to start games against them, on Wednesday it was the exact opposite as the Badgers ran out to a 5-0 start against the Gophers.

It was Bronson Koenig starting off the scoring, hitting a triple from the corner, and it was just a sign of things to come for the junior point guard. He had 12 of his 14 points by halftime on 5 of 7 shooting, including seven of UW’s first 14 points of the game.

Things didn’t stay hot for Koenig or the Badgers though, and they found themselves on the wrong end of a severe scoring drought. Wisconsin went over three minutes without a field goal and were 0 of 6 from the field in the middle of the first half. It didn’t matter much though, as Wisconsin still lead 15-11 until a Vitto Brown jumper got UW out of its funk.

Wisconsin woke up after Brown’s make and eventually the Badgers led by as many as 20 points in the first half. It didn’t hurt that UW responded to its drought by also going 8 of 8 from the field in building that lead as well.

The Badgers finished the half 10 of 14 from the field including Brown’s drought-breaking bucket, and UW led 40-24 at the half.

It got so out of hand that Greg Gard made sure to get senior walk-on Jordan Smith more minutes in his native Minnesota than at his actual senior day at the Kohl Center on Sunday.

Minnesota had more turnovers (7) than made field goals (6), and had nearly half of its 24 points at the free throw line (11). Wisconsin, on the other hand, shot 55 percent form the field and turned the Gophers’ seven turnovers in to 13 points en route to leading from wire-to-wire in the first half.

The second half felt much like a forgone conclusion, as the Badgers only worked to extend their halftime lead and stats. However, the Gophers had other ideas as the six-man rotation continued to work and took advantage of a big Wisconsin scoring drought.

After Khalil Iverson threw down a monster dunk with just under 15 minutes to play, it was lights out for the Badgers offense. Wisconsin went 0 for 8 over the next nine minutes and managed just two made free throws to four turnovers in the field goal drought.

It all led to a 19-point lead being whittled down to just 11 points with 6:12 to play.

Just like in the first half, it was Brown breaking the field goal drought for the Badgers. This time though, he did it with a triple from straight on and it pushed Wisconsin’s lead back to 15 points.

The scare was over just like that as well, as the Badgers went on to maintain their once sizable lead, eventually locking in their 12th win of the Big Ten season in the process.

Wisconsin ends its regular season looking to lock down a top four seed and the double-bye in the Big Ten tournament with a trip to Purdue on Sunday.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com

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