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DATE & TIME: Friday, March 14, 6:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (18,165) -- Indianapolis, Indiana. Television: BTN. Home Record: Minnesota 16-3, Wisconsin 14-3. Away Record: Minnesota 3-7, Wisconsin 8-3. Neutral Record: Minnesota 1-2, Wisconsin 3-0. Conference Record: Minnesota 8-10, Wisconsin 12-6. Series Record: Minnesota leads, 87-69.
GAME NOTES: The second-seeded Wisconsin Badgers engage in their first action of the 2014 Big Ten Conference Tournament, as they tangle with the seventh- seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers on Friday evening at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The winner moves on to Saturday's semifinal round to battle either Northwestern or Michigan State.
Minnesota opened tournament play on Thursday by downing Penn State in a 63-56 final. The win, the team's second over the Nittany Lions in less than a week, obviously kept the Golden Gophers alive in this event, while also marking their 20th win of the season. Minnesota's record in the Big Ten Tournament also improved to 12-14, as it seeks its first-ever championship, and only its second trip to the title tilt.
Wisconsin earned the No. 2 seed in this event by going 25-6 on the season, which included its 12-6 league ledger. The Badgers had an eight-game win streak stopped in the regular-season finale at Nebraska, 77-68, and coach Bo Ryan's club comes in to today's contest hoping to raise its record in this event to 18-15. UW has two Big Ten tourney titles to its credit, the most recent of which came in 2008.
The Golden Gophers own an 87-69 advantage in the all-time series, and the two teams split a pair of meetings during the regular season, with each winning on its home court.
Austin Hollins scored 18 points and DeAndre Mathieu tacked on 13 more, both of which were needed efforts as Minnesota got by Penn State in Thursday's first- round matchup. The Gophers shot a pedestrian 43.8 percent from the floor, but drained seven treys, while holding the Lions to just 32.2 percent overall accuracy, which included a dismal 5-of-21 showing from beyond the arc. Minnesota won the game despite being outrebounded (41-33) and outscored in the paint (26-24), off turnovers (13-7) and in second-chance points (13-4).
Wisconsin, long known for its defensive prowess, actually employed more of an offensive approach this season as it averaged 73.2 ppg to rank fourth in the Big Ten. The Badgers still play well with their backs to the basket (64.2 ppg, also fourth in the league), although their average field goal allowance (.431) has them ranked 11th. Frank Kaminsky (13.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) spearheads a balanced attack that features four double-digit scorers. Sam Dekker joins Kaminsky in the frontcourt to grab a combined 12.6 rpg and blocked a total of 71 shots, while guard Ben Brust has nearly as many 3-point baskets (74) as most of his teammates have long-range attempts.
The Golden Gophers are going to need to play above their means if they're going to pull off the upset here. While they certainly have the ability to do so, expect Kaminsky and company to put forth maximum effort at both ends of the court, as the Badgers advance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 75, Minnesota 66
03/14 10:26:22 ET
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