MADISON, WIS. – It has been almost a decade since Lawrence Westbrook played basketball for the Gophers, but his name always comes up when the Border Battle takes place at the Kohl Center.
Westbrook’s 29 points led the Gophers to a 78-74 overtime victory at Wisconsin on Jan. 15, 2009. Before Thursday, that was the Gophers’ only victory in Madison since the Kohl Center opened in 1998.
Back home in Arizona, Westbrook watched on TV as the Gophers won 59-52 Thursday, calling it a “big win” that could “make it a rivalry again.”
“I’m glad I was a part of history,” he said before the game. “I remember everything pretty much from [the 2009] game. I don’t know how many times Minnesota won there. Nobody wins there. It’s a tough place to play. We kept battling and battling and came together to make it happen. It was a big game for us.”
The Gophers trailed by 11 at halftime 10 years ago, but they scored 40 points in the second half, including a three-pointer from Damian Johnson with 19 seconds left and Westbrook’s tying three with two seconds left to send the game into regulation.
“We were happy to go to overtime,” said Westbrook, who scored nine points in OT. “I knew when we went into overtime I told the guys we have to win this game, because everything was happening right for us in such a short amount of time.”
The Gophers also got big contributions off the bench from Paul Carter (10 points and 11 rebounds) and Racine, Wis., native Devron Bostick (11 points, including five points in overtime) to end a six-game losing streak in the series and win their first victory in Madison since the Badgers played in the Field House in 1994.
Westbrook, who led the team in scoring in 2008-09, not only beat Wisconsin for the first time in his career that season, but the Gophers also helped him finish his senior year by reaching the NCAA tournament. The 6-foot guard spent time playing professionally in Israel, Germany and Romania. He also had a few stints in the NBA G League. He and Johnson were briefly in training camp together with the Bakersfield Jam several years ago. Westbrook now works in real estate with his brother, Tahj, back where they grew up in Arizona.
“I don’t watch college basketball too much, but I check in on [the Gophers] from time to time,” he said. “I hope they can make it a rivalry with Wisconsin again.”
Gophers coach Richard Pitino said he wanted to reward senior Brock Stull for effort in practice, so he played him over Isaiah Washington on Thursday.
Stull, who won at Wisconsin as a freshman at Wisconsin-Milwaukee — in turn rewarded the Gophers with back-to-back threes in the second half.
Washington, who averaged 5.2 points in 18.2 minutes, didn’t play for the first time this season.
“I think he’s practicing hard,” Pitino said of Stull. “I think he’s lost the weight. He’s getting in shape, and I think this game kind of fits him. It’s a style he’s used to playing. It was a grind-it-out game he’s used to playing in. It was nothing more than that.”
Curry helps out
Gophers sophomore big man Eric Curry played his second game this season for the Gophers after recovering from knee surgery. His previous Big Ten game was also against a 22nd-ranked Wisconsin team, to end the 2016-17 season.
He played 22 minutes, with two points and five rebounds. Those minutes were useful with Jordan Murphy and Daniel Oturu both in foul trouble.
“We were able to get him some quality minutes,” Pitino said of Curry. “I trust him. He’s a smart player.”