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Men’s basketball regular season ends with 6th straight loss to Badgers

After a thrilling buzzer-beating win over Rutgers Thursday, the Gophers concluded their regular season with a close loss to Wisconsin.
Image by CJ Bonk
Jaden Henley blocks a shot from Indiana during the game on Wednesday, Jan. 25.

Minnesota ended a 12-game losing streak Thursday against Rutgers thanks to a buzzer-beating Jamison Battle 3. They looked to keep the momentum going but fell to their border rivals, the Wisconsin Badgers, on senior day.

The Gophers will now enter the Big Ten tournament as the No. 14 seed and will play their first game against No. 11 Nebraska on Wednesday.

March 2 vs. Rutgers

“I just kind of talked about if you compete and you have a will to win, then anything is possible,” Gophers Head Coach Ben Johnson said before the game.

The game looked like it was going down a similar path the Gophers have faced all season with Rutgers leading 40-33 at the half. The Scarlet Knights had two players in double figures and made 15 of 29 field goals.

Gophers forward Battle found success from beyond the 3-point line all night, but the Scarlet Knights remained on fire, pushing their lead to 53-39 five minutes into the second half.

A 6-point run for the Gophers brought their deficit within 8 with 13 minutes left. The teams traded baskets for the next 12 minutes, keeping the lead between 7 and 11 points.

Tides quickly turned for the Gophers as leading-scorer Dawson Garcia scored on back-to-back possessions to cut it to 70-64 with less than a minute to go. Battle proceeded to lead Minnesota on a historic comeback, with three 3-point shots in less than 90 seconds.

It came down the wires. Battle came up with a pivotal steal and missed an open 3-pointer to tie, but freshman Jaden Henley found the bottom of the net to pull the Gophers within 1 with less than 10 seconds left.

After getting fouled, Rutgers veteran Caleb McConnell split two free throws, opening the door for Minnesota. Jamison Battle’s third 3 of the night came at the buzzer, giving Minnesota its second Big Ten victory of the season.

“There really is no feeling you know that’s something you dream about, but I think it’s just consistent with all the work we’ve put in,” Battle said. “It feels good, but I’m more excited about this next game we got coming up against Wisconsin.”

The Gophers’ win on Thursday was their first home conference win of the season and first win since Jan. 12 when they defeated Ohio State, breaking a 12-game losing streak.

March 5 vs. Wisconsin

The Gophers prepared to send their seniors off Sunday in their final regular season matchup against their border rivals, the Wisconsin Badgers.

The Gophers opened the game making three of their first four field goals, including a pair of layups from Henley. Minnesota trailed 7-6 early, but Garcia knocked down a pair of 3-pointers for the Gophers that tied the score at nine.

A putback layup from freshman Braeden Carrington put the Gophers ahead just before fellow freshman Joshua Ola-Joseph put up a layup to cap a 7-point run, resulting in a 22-18 Gophers lead. Minnesota completed one of their best halves of the season, leading the Badgers 36-29.

Wisconsin came out of the locker room with something to prove, going on a quick 7-1 run to cut their deficit to 37-36. Minnesota quickly responded with a 6-1 run of their own to maintain a 43-38 lead.

Garcia’s third 3-pointer of the night stretched the Gophers’ lead back to 6 points. A Badgers turnover led to a 3 from the top of the key for Carrington, forcing a Wisconsin timeout with Minnesota up 53-46.

A 7-point Badgers run tied the score at 55 with eight minutes left to play. The Badgers built a 62-59 edge, but a 3-point play from Cooper tied the score with three minutes to go.

Wisconsin regained a 66-62 lead with less than a minute left and went 4-of-4 at the free-throw line, which would ultimately lead them to win the game 71-67.

“I really look at this as a one-possession game. [When we] get to the line 19 times, it’s tough when you only make 11 of them,” Johnson said. “It’s a detail-oriented game, so turnovers and free throws can really come back and haunt you, especially when it’s a one-possession game.”

Minnesota will play Nebraska in Game 2 of the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The game will begin approximately 25 minutes after Game 1 between Wisconsin and Ohio State at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

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