Sheer Grier: Junior pelts Badgers

Vincent Grier matched Wisconsin’s 26 points in the second half of Minnesota’s 60-50 win.

Bob Wothe

In three Big Ten losses for Minnesota’s men’s basketball team, Vincent Grier has been too quiet for coach Dan Monson’s taste.

“If this is going to be his team, he’s got to be accountable in big games,” Monson said.

“In our three losses in the league, he hasn’t done some of the things that he’s capable of doing.”

By the time Grier stood at half court with the clock winding toward 0 and the index finger on his left hand raised in the air Saturday, he had shown Monson he was more than willing to be accountable.

Grier scored a career-high 32 points on 14-of-21 shooting as Minnesota (16-6, 6-3 Big Ten) beat No. 19 Wisconsin (15-5, 6-3) 60-50 in front of a season-high crowd of 14,244 at Williams Arena.

“We called his number, and he didn’t let us down,” Monson said. “They were playing 3 to 4 feet off him, daring him to shoot, and he got some confidence going after he made the first few.”

Grier’s offensive explosion in the second half was the most stupendous display seen at Williams Arena this season.

After a first half in which he made just two of seven field goals and scored six points, Grier’s 26 points in the second half equaled the total of the entire Badgers squad.

“He hasn’t shown that kind of outside shooting capability,” said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who lost for the first time in his six games against Minnesota. “Give him credit, though – he found it, and we couldn’t stop him.”

Grier’s second-half performance was a remarkable reversal from an ugly first half.

The Gophers jumped out to a 15-5 lead after unveiling their half-court trap, which gave the Badgers fits and played a large part in the Badgers’ 17 turnovers.

Brent Lawson and Aaron Robinson had four and three steals, respectively, which resulted in some easy transition points for the Gophers and a 23-5 points-off-turnovers advantage.

But the Gophers blew their early 10-point lead by scoring just two points in the half’s final 10 minutes and none in the last 7:41 to enter the half trailing 24-22.

Luckily for Minnesota, Grier immediately asserted himself in the second half, scoring 16 of the team’s next 26 points and turning what had been a five-point deficit into a 10-point lead with 8:26 left on the clock.

“They let me get in the flow early,” Grier said. “And when I get like that, I’m going to succeed.”

But the best was yet to come.

After Wisconsin cut the lead to six with two Ray Nixon baskets, Grier went on his most torrid stretch of all, pushing the lead to 12 with 10 straight points – all coming on jump shots.

Though the Badgers outrebounded the Gophers 40-32, including 15 on the offensive end, they did not make great use of their extra opportunities, shooting just 32.8 percent in the game.

And that was a mark far too low to stick with the hot-handed Grier down the stretch.

“I’ve had a few down games, and it was time for me to come out of the slump,” Grier said. “It was one of the best feelings. I haven’t had a flow like that in a while.”