Rally goes to waste in OT loss to Wis.

Minnesota closed regulation on a 10-0 run but lost in overtime.

Minnesota forward/center Ralph Sampson III tries to block Wisconsin forward/center Jared Berggren from making a basket during Thursdays game at Williams Arena.

Marisa Wojcik

Minnesota forward/center Ralph Sampson III tries to block Wisconsin forward/center Jared Berggren from making a basket during Thursday’s game at Williams Arena.

by Charlie Armitz

For most of the game, the Gophers were outplayed.

Outhustled. Overmatched. Overwhelmed, perhaps, by the magnitude of playing rival Wisconsin in their most pivotal match-up of the season.

But when it counted most, Minnesota had a chance to win — and blew it.

The Gophers missed two potential game-winning shots at the end of regulation in a 68-61 overtime loss to the No. 21 Badgers on Thursday at Williams Arena.

With the score tied at 51-51, freshman Andre Hollins airballed a contested jump shot with three seconds left in the second half, and Austin Hollins missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“That’s going to haunt me for a while,” said Andre Hollins, who scored a career-high 20 points. “I’m very, very, highly upset with myself. I should have gotten the ball on the rim.”

The misses by the two Hollinses effectively ended a momentum surge that had brought the Gophers back from 10 points down midway through the second half. In overtime, Wisconsin scored the first six points and made 15 of 17 free throws.

Minnesota trailed 51-41 with 7:43 to play when it went on a 10-0 run to even the score in the final minute of regulation.

Andre Hollins scored six points during that stretch, including a desperation 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down that cut the Badgers’ lead to 51-49.

“He’s the reason we got back in the ballgame,” head coach Tubby Smith said of Andre Hollins. “He’ll have to see a lot more time.”

When Andre Hollins wasn’t on the floor, Wisconsin’s starters were dominating Minnesota’s first unit. The Badgers led 32-24 at halftime and extended their lead to 13 points with 15:40 left in the second half.

Eighty seconds later, Smith subbed out four of his starters for a quartet of reserves while leaving Andre Hollins in the game.

At the very least, the shift caught Wisconsin off guard.

“I thought our kids did a good job of battling back after such a poor start,” Smith said. “Wisconsin got off to a great start shooting the ball. It’s hard to overcome the seven [3-pointers] they made in the first half, and we did.”

Wisconsin shot 2-for-11 from long range in the second half after a 7-for-11 start.

The Badgers were held scoreless for 8:49 to close regulation and begin overtime. But they never let the game get out of hand.

“Our guys didn’t let [the scoreless streak] bother them at the defensive end,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “We didn’t get out of what we were doing.”

Defense proved to be a game-saver for Wisconsin when Jordan Taylor shut down Andre Hollins on the final possession of regulation.

Taylor finished with a game-high 27 points and three steals. The Bloomington, Minn., native made all four of his 3-pointers in the first half and finished 5-for-9 from beyond the arc.

“We had no answer for him,” Smith said. “That was the difference in the game, I thought: him stepping up and making plays, taking care of the ball and just running his team.”

Rodney Williams had 16 points but only two rebounds for Minnesota.

His counterpart, Ryan Evans, had 17 points and 11 rebounds.

The Gophers won the rebounding battle 38-34, but they often struggled with one-and-done possessions while failing to keep Wisconsin off the offensive glass.

“We just didn’t execute well down the stretch,” Andre Hollins said. “We were kind of sloppy, and we didn’t rebound defensively.”

Williams pointed to the Gophers’ offensive woes as the difference in their loss.

“We had a chance at the end; the shots just didn’t fall,” Williams said. “In overtime, they made shots, and we didn’t. That’s all it came down to.”

Williams missed a pair of free throws early in the extra frame after Wisconsin had regained the lead with two free throws of its own. He finished 2-for-5 from the free throw line.

Aside from Andre Hollins, Minnesota struggled mightily with its shooting. Hollins made five of his six 3-pointers, while his teammates were 1-for-11 from long distance.

Minnesota’s three starting guards — Julian Welch, Joe Coleman and Austin Hollins — finished with just 15 points on 6-for-17 shooting.

Coleman was held scoreless for a third consecutive game. In his six games prior to that, he had scored 81 points.

Another of the Gophers’ key scorers, Ralph Sampson III, managed just four points on 1-for-4 shooting. He also had three of Minnesota’s 13 turnovers.

“Some guys are struggling,” Smith said, pointing to the play of guards Coleman, Austin Hollins, Maverick Ahanmisi and Chip Armelin. “I like this team — we play extremely hard. Sometimes you’ve got to play a lot smarter.”

It doesn’t get any easier for the Gophers. Smith said his team will have to play a lot better when it faces conference leader Ohio State on Tuesday — a task he admitted would be difficult.

“To lose this one at home really does put you back on your heels,” Smith said. “These types of games are going to take the wind out of your sail early.”

Mbakwe update

Injured Gophers star Trevor Mbakwe tweeted after the Wisconsin loss that he’s hoping the NCAA will grant him a sixth year.

A fifth-year senior, Mbakwe injured his ACL on Nov. 27 and will miss the rest of the season. Whether he is permitted a sixth year — which requires an exception to the NCAA’s Five-Year Rule — likely depends on how the NCAA views his 2009-10 season, which he redshirted because of legal troubles.

Mbakwe added that he probably wouldn’t find out the NCAA’s decision until April.