Walker looks to slow down Kaminsky

Two of the Big Ten’s best centers will headline the Border Battle rematch.

Minnesota guard Mo Walker reaches for arebound in the first half against the Badgers on Feb. 21 in Madison, Wis.

Daily File Photo, Amanda Snyder

Minnesota guard Mo Walker reaches for arebound in the first half against the Badgers on Feb. 21 in Madison, Wis.

by Jack Satzinger

After Minnesota lost at Wisconsin on Feb. 21, Badgers star Frank Kaminsky had a simple postgame message for Gophers center Mo Walker: “See you soon.”

When Minnesota hosts No. 6 Wisconsin on Thursday, the team has a chance to substantially bolster its postseason résumé. And the game will also give Walker another chance to one-up Kaminsky, arguably the best player in college basketball.

Kaminsky toyed with the Gophers in Madison, Wis., in the game two weeks ago.

The 7-foot center flashed his refined post moves in the paint. He hit 3-pointers. And when defenders bit on his shot fake, Kaminsky drove to the basket with ease.

“Early on, he got me a few times on the shot fake,” Walker said after the contest. “I think later in the game, I adjusted.”

By the time the score read Wisconsin 63, Minnesota 53, Kaminsky had scored 21 points, shooting an efficient 9-for-13 from the field.

It was just another day for the versatile big man.

Kaminsky has scored in double figures in every game he has played since Thanksgiving.

He also is second on the Badgers in 3-point field-goal percentage — one of Wisconsin’s strengths — as a big man.

Earlier this season, a reporter asked Gophers head coach Richard Pitino if he would only employ a zone defense against certain opponents.

“I’m not going to play it versus Wisconsin — too good of a passing and shooting team,” Pitino said.

After the Badgers topped Minnesota, Wisconsin played at then-No. 14 Maryland for a prime-time matchup.

Wisconsin lost 59-53 for just its third loss of the season, as Terrapins freshman Melo Trimble badly out-played Badgers sophomore guard Bronson Koenig.

But Kaminsky was steady, yet again, keeping the Badgers in the game with 18 points and eight rebounds.

Less than a week later, Kaminsky powered Wisconsin past Michigan State with a dominant performance. The senior compiled 31 points, eight rebounds and three blocks while shooting efficiently from the floor.

After the contest, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo lauded the Badgers center.

“I’ve never been more impressed with a player in our league since maybe ‘Big Dog’ [Glenn Robinson] back in the day,” Izzo said in a press conference. “I thought [Kaminsky] was sensational. I would like to give my early vote that Kaminsky is, no question, the best player in this country this year.”

The last time Wisconsin came to Williams Arena, Minnesota upset the Badgers, and Walker had a career night. The Gophers center came off the bench for 18 points and nine rebounds. Kaminsky only tallied 15 minutes of play for nine points and four rebounds.

The Badgers center has evolved since then. But fresh off a recent loss to Wisconsin, Walker and the Gophers seem to think they have a chance on Thursday.

“They’ve got one of the best players in the country,” Pitino said Monday in a conference call. “We know we’re going to have to play about as close to a perfect game as possible to win, but luckily, it’s in our building, so you never know.”