Gophers hope to slow Badgers this time around

Jim Schortemeyer

Wisconsin isn’t the type of men’s basketball team that runs away from teams.
Usually.
When Minnesota played Wisconsin last month, the Badgers steamed out to a 28-6 first-half lead on the shoulders of Mike Kelley. Kelley, last year’s defensive player of the year, knocked down 16 points and helped make a mess out of Minnesota’s offense.
In short, Wisconsin clubbed the Gophers early and often en route to its 85-53 win. And stopping runs like the Badgers’ 28-6 start is something Minnesota coach Dan Monson says the Gophers just aren’t equipped for.
“Of the 12 guys on our team, it’s not the strength of any one guy,” Monson said.
“It’s a lot simpler if you have an A.J. Guyton, or a Mateen Cleaves, or a Scoonie Penn or a Michael Redd. We don’t have that luxury.”
While Dick Bennett’s club steamed past the Gophers with relative ease, the Badgers haven’t normally been a high-scoring team. After all, this is the team that scored 48 points in a three-point loss Thursday to Ohio State.
Those kind of scores are typical of Wisconsin — with Kelley in the lineup. The Badgers forced 23 Minnesota turnovers last time they met and grabbed 15 steals, thanks in part to Kelley.
“Kelley is the kind of player who is good at anticipating,” Ohnstad said. “He has really good hands. He’s going to try and get in the lane to get steals.”
While Kelley and Wisconsin are going to have to worry about bouncing back from a last-second loss to the Buckeyes, Minnesota has been eyeing this game for awhile. It’s safe to say the 24-point loss a few weeks ago left a sour taste in the mouths of the Gophers.
“Certainly, any time you lose by 30 points it’s embarrassing,” Ohnstad said. “We have a statement to make and (Wisconsin) will add extra motivation.
“We need to win, and we should win. Any time you’re at home, you need to protect your home court.”
If Minnesota is going to protect anything, it should be the ball. After the Gophers had their pockets repeatedly picked, Monson is looking for answers.
“Hopefully we can see how we can counter against that and not let that happen again,” Monson said. “We’ve got to have that balance and confidence that we can play better.”
One addition to the to-do list: Stop the runs. Illinois plowed Minnesota under Wednesday night thanks to an early 20-0 run.
But the motivation from the Gophers’ 30-point loss to the Badgers might be enough.
“We’ll be ready,” center Joel Przybilla said. “It was a fluke. We’re a lot better team than that.”

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