Badgers best Gophers in emotional game, 66-64

Jim Schortemeyer

The relaxed start of the Minnesota-Wisconsin men’s basketball game belied the emotional fury to come.
It all started simply. Wisconsin slopped its way to a 5-2 lead after four minutes while Minnesota looked out of sync.
What followed in the next 35 minutes was two technical fouls, thrown towels and a buzzer-beating shot from Wisconsin’s Roy Boone to win the game 66-64.
“We let it come down to the last shot, and when you do that you’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some. Tonight we lost,” a subdued Minnesota coach Dan Monson said.
He wasn’t always subdued. The fireworks started in the first half. Monson spent the first half arguing with referees — a foreshadowing of a second-half blowup that cost the team a technical foul.
But it was Gophers guard Terrance Simmons who earned the game’s first technical near the end of the second half. Simmons was arguing about a missed foul call after Wisconsin’s Maurice Linton hit a layup near the end of the first half.
The Badgers converted the foul shots and the went into halftime with a 35-28 lead.
Simmons was active all night, vocally and on the court. The junior guard says he’s trying to make up for sluggish play earlier in the season.
“The last four games it’s a joke,” Simmons said. “I haven’t even been playing at a high school level.”
Simmons finished with 14 points, no rebounds and one assist.
After a meandering start to the second half where Wisconsin wandered to a 47-37 lead, Simmons fired up the crowd with a thundering one-handed dunk to pull the Gophers within eight.
But the momentum was lost moments later when Monson earned the second Minnesota technical for stepping on the court while arguing with a referee.
Monson said he didn’t mean to get the technical — only the second of his career — but it did spark Minnesota to go on a run.
Simmons dunked, Bickerstaff got a layup and the next thing 14,563 frantic fans knew, Minnesota held a 64-61 lead.
That’s when Bennett got worried. The Badgers coach started swatting players with a towel as they went on the floor and shook his head at mistakes his team made down the stretch.
“When you have a team that gets rattled like they did to us, you start to have a sinking feeling,” Bennett said.
Bennett’s sinking feeling was buoyed in the closing seconds.
Minnesota had the ball, tied at 64, with a 7-second difference between the shot clock and the game clock. With 10 seconds left in the game, Dusty Rychart was mobbed and fumbled the ball to the Badgers.
“I was yelling, saying bring it down,” Bennett said. “I didn’t want Minnesota to set up their defense.”
Boone, who finished with 16 points for the Badgers, ran the ball down the floor, penetrated the perimeter defense and took a twisting 8-foot jumper.
Nothing but net, with only 0.8 seconds still on the clock. Game over.
“We were very tentative, like we were afraid to lose,” Monson said. “We didn’t go attack. We haven’t been in that situation where we need a basket and we got tentative instead of attacking.”
The loss wasn’t an easy one to swallow for several reasons. Wisconsin hadn’t beaten Minnesota at The Barn since 1986 and the Gophers hadn’t been swept by the Badgers in 38 years.
“I’m real proud of our effort,” Monson said. “We laid it on the line. And it really hurts when you do all that and you lose. This is painful.”
While Minnesota was upset over the loss, Bennett and the Badgers had grins from ear to ear.
“In games prior, we had the last shot and I thought we were going to win,” Bennett said. “Tonight, I thought we were going to lose, so that shows you what I know.”

Jim Schortemeyer is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]