Two Minnesotans carry Wisconsin over No. 14 Gophers

The Gophers had a chance to beat the Badgers on the road to open the Big Ten season, but they could never overcome a first half deficit.

Forward Rodney Williams attempts a basket Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena.

Forward Rodney Williams attempts a basket Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena.

Josh Katzenstein

The Gophers menâÄôs basketball team controlled the boards all game, but WisconsinâÄôs Jon Leuer grabbed the most crucial rebound of TuesdayâÄôs Big Ten opener.
With the Badgers leading 62-60 with 29 seconds left, Leuer grabbed an offensive rebound off a Jordan Taylor miss to help Wisconsin (11-3) knock off No. 14 Minnesota, 68-60.
After the hustle play, Gophers forward Ralph Sampson fouled Leuer, who hit two free throws to extend the lead and ice the victory over Minnesota (11-2).
Leuer and Taylor, both of whom went to high school in Minnesota, carried the Badgers to the win. Taylor scored a season-high 22 points, pitched in seven assists and found openings despite being covered for much of the game by Al Nolen, the GophersâÄô best defender who returned to MinnesotaâÄôs starting lineup for the first time since injuring his foot on Nov. 24.
The 6-foot-10 Leuer added 16 points and nine rebounds. He went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line as well to help carry the Badgers to a near-perfect 17-for-18 from the line.
The Gophers had hoped to push the ball inside, but they only had 15 free-throw attempts and had eight shots rejected by the Badgers, almost four blocks better than their season average. Minnesota only had three blocks as they struggled to contain the Wisconsin big men who could score both inside and outside.
Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe often proved to be the most athletic player on the floor, but foul trouble kept him sidelined for much of the game. He finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds in 29 minutes, his eighth double-double this season.
Sampson added 14 points and grabbed seven boards to help the Gophers win the rebounding battle 37-24, but it wasnâÄôt enough to overcome eight turnovers. The Baders only coughed the ball up twice.
Nolen was disappointing on the offensive end, missing all six of his shots and contributing only two assists. Devoe Joseph added 14 points and seven assists in 21 minutes off the bench, which should give coach Tubby Smith something to consider as he sets his lineup for the Big Ten schedule ahead.