Free-falling Gophers drop fourth straight
MADISON, Wis. — Minnesota coach Tubby Smith is getting tired of this type of ending.
Miscues on both ends of the court proved costly for the 12th-ranked Golden Gophers on Saturday, as Wisconsin pulled out a 45-44 victory and sent Minnesota to its fourth consecutive loss.
Badgers point guard Traevon Jackson narrowly beat the shot clock, hitting a 15-foot jumper from the right side with 4 seconds left for what proved to be the decisive points.
The winning shot followed an offensive foul by Minnesota leading scorer Andre Hollins. And the Gophers (15-5, 3-4 Big Ten) had a chance to tie the score with 1.8 seconds remaining, only to see Rodney Williams miss the back end of a bonus to end the game.
"That's a recipe for getting a loss: just not be disciplined defensively, and not be disciplined offensively," Smith said. "We've had three chances now to break (the losing streak), and it's been the same. We had a good shot today; we had a good shot (Wednesday) against Northwestern. We just haven't stepped up to the plate.
"Maybe we're just not pushing the right buttons to get guys to do what they have to do," Smith added. "No one wants to play bad. Nobody's trying to lose. But obviously it becomes a state of mind."
After Jackson gave the Badgers (14-6, 5-2) a 45-43 lead, Minnesota called a timeout with 1.8 seconds remaining and inbounded from halfcourt. Wisconsin's Mike Bruesewitz fouled Mbakwe on the play, but the big man was unable to shoot the ensuing free throws because he aggravated a right wrist injury.
Badgers coach Bo Ryan selected Williams to take Mbakwe's spot. Williams, who came in shooting 64.9 percent from the line, hit the first free throw but missed the second and Sam Dekker grabbed the rebound to seal the win for Wisconsin.
"Once Trevor got hurt, I kind of knew they were going to send me to the free throw line," Williams said. "So I just tried to prepare myself the best I could. I knocked down the first one and the second one felt just as good as the first one did, but it didn't bounce my way."
Dekker and Ryan Evans scored 10 points apiece and Jackson finished with nine for the Badgers, who ended a two-game slide and have beaten Minnesota 15 times in the past 16 meetings in Madison.
Hollins had a game-high 20 for the Gophers, but was called for a charge on Ben Brust with 39.1 seconds left and the score tied at 43 to set the stage for Jackson's late shot.
"It was a big momentum-changer in the game," Hollins said of the offensive foul. "My decision-making on that play was very poor. Those are the little things that cost us the game."
Jackson ran down the clock, finally maneuvering over the 3-point line with about 6 seconds left. He faked a shot, which sent the 6-foot-8 Mbakwe flying past him, then put up the decisive jumper — replays showed he released the ball just before the 35-second shot clock expired.
"I could've done a better job of contesting the shot," said Mbakwe, who finished with eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds. He said he didn't expect to miss any games because of the wrist injury; Smith said the injury occurred earlier in the week and an X-ray showed it to be a bruise.