Gophers basketball baffles Badgers in 81-68 win

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 23, 2014 - 6:43 AM

Andre Hollins was hurt seconds into the game, but Mo Walker led the charge to knock off the Badgers.

view larger photos


There was a time not long ago that Andre Hollins being hurt at the start of a huge game against a ranked team would have spelled doom for the Gophers.

Not anymore.

Instead, Minnesota rallied behind backup center Mo Walker early and guards Austin Hollins, Malik Smith and DeAndre Mathieu throughout the game to claim a huge victory over No. 9 Wisconsin — the Badgers’ third consecutive loss — 81-68 on Wednesday night at Williams Arena.

“It was unbelievable all the guys that stepped up,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “That’s when you kind of figure out if you can be a good team or not, when you take one thing away, you go at them with this one.”

The Gophers (15-5, 4-3 Big Ten) finished a hellacious stretch of four top-15 teams with a 2-2 record, setting them up nicely for the road ahead.

As as they have all season, they raised their record over .500 in the Big Ten by uncommon means.

On the Gophers’ first possession, Andre Hollins hit a midrange jumper to put Minnesota on the board first. But the junior guard came down on defender Josh Gasser’s foot, turning his left ankle and grimacing as he clutched his leg before being helped off the court 12 seconds into the game.

The Gophers took no time in picking up where their leader left off.

Walker came in for Elliott Eliason just under five minutes into the first half, and took over with a force. The transformed 6-10 center — now down to 250 pounds, 60 pounds slimmer than last season — exploded for 12 consecutive points, taking advantage of Wisconsin’s weakened interior defense (with 7-footer Frank Kaminsky on the bench with a pair of fouls) to push Minnesota to a 21-13 lead.

Walker finished with 18 points (14 in the first half) and nine rebounds — both new career highs.

“It felt good,” Walker said. “I got pretty into the game, I let my emotions show a little bit, got the crowd into it, got my teammates into it and we made a little bit of a run.”

That momentum led Minnesota — which shot 58.9 percent from the field and had only seven turnovers — to a 34-28 lead at the break, despite point guard Mathieu sitting with a pair of fouls for the final 5:38 of the first half.

Meanwhile, Hollins was downstairs on a training table, shouting loudly and the TV and cheering on his team.

“They didn’t need me tonight,” he said. “They played amazing, they played great team basketball.”

Wisconsin was within seven at 66-59 with 4:39 remaining when the Badgers (16-3, 3-3) adjusted to the Gophers’ surprising inside play, but unlike in games against Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State, Minnesota didn’t allow the Badgers back in the game.

Rather, the Gophers threw a plethora of guards at the Wisconsin defense, which was shredded like a leaf in a hailstorm.

Mathieu (18 points, five rebounds, three assists) and Austin Hollins came alive down the stretch, the former sneaking past the Badgers’ defenders for shot after shot at the rim and the latter exercising his athleticism, igniting the packed Barn crowd announced at 14,625 with a pair of slams.

After that 4:39 mark, Smith (14 points, three rebounds, three assists) stretched the lead with a layup and then was followed by a pair of scores at the rim from Joey King and Mathieu and four free throws from Walker. Smith’s shot clock-beating three-pointer with 42 seconds left put the Gophers up 79-65 and sealed the upset.

  • related content

  • BOXSCORE: Gophers 81, Wisconsin 68

    Thursday January 23, 2014

  • Reusse: Feats big and small get Williams Arena rocking

    Friday January 24, 2014

    On Wednesday against Wisconsin, the outcome at Williams Arena was clear through the second half.

  • Hartman: Teague denies being Virginia Tech AD candidate

    Thursday January 23, 2014 linked the Gophers athletic director to the search, but he “declined involvement” when contacted.

  • Bonus Reusse: Big Ten should go to two divisions in basketball

    Thursday January 23, 2014

    Without division play, the Gophers will be playing Wisconsin and Iowa twice a winter precisely as often as they will be playing Rutgers and Penn State.

  • Gophers-Wisconsin game recap

    Thursday January 23, 2014

    GAME RECAPImpact playerMo Walker, GophersThe backup center took over when Andre Hollins went down with a left ankle sprain, going...

  • Maurice Walker provided an offensive spark in the first half against Wisconsin.

  • Minnesota Gophers vs. Wisconsin Badgers basketball. Minnesota guard Andre Hollins (1) went to the floor with an ankle injury in the opening moments of the game forcing him to head to the locker room. (MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE(

  • Gophers 81, No. 9 Wisconsin 68 Up next: 5 p.m. Sunday at Nebraska • Pinnacle Bank Arena • TV: BTN (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Washington - WP: D. Fister 1 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: D. Gee 0
Philadelphia - WP: S. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
Toronto - LP: J. Francis 7 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: M. Rzepczynski 10
Cincinnati - LP: J. Cueto 0 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 5
Tampa Bay - LP: S. Geltz 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: T. Hunter 4
Chicago WSox - LP: J. Danks 3 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: R. Pressly 13
Detroit - WP: A. Sanchez 6 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Guthrie 4
Seattle - LP: C. Smith 6 FINAL
Houston - WP: P. Neshek 7
Pittsburgh - LP: R. Liz 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Socolovich 3
Milwaukee - WP: W. Smith 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: P. Strop 3
Oakland - WP: S. Gray 7 FINAL
Texas - LP: Y. Gallardo 1
LA Angels - LP: J. Weaver 0 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: T. Lincecum 5
Colorado - LP: K. Kendrick 6 FINAL
San Diego - WP: J. Shields 8
Arizona - LP: E. Marshall 0 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: J. Howell 1
NY Yankees - WP: A. Warren 8 FINAL
Boston - LP: J. Kelly 5
Washington 104 FINAL
Atlanta 98
Memphis 86 FINAL
Golden State 101
Tampa Bay 6 FINAL
Montreal 2
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Chicago 4
Calgary 0 FINAL
Anaheim 3
Chicago 0 FINAL
Sporting Kansas City 1
Seattle 3 FINAL
New York City 1
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Does it bother you that Tyus Jones chose Duke over Minnesota?

Weekly Question