Badgers continue downfall
The state of Bo Ryan’s 13th team at Wisconsin has reached this point:
The opponent can lose its leading scorer to injury in the first minute of the game and not miss a beat.
Minnesota lost junior guard Andre Hollins to an ankle injury after only 16 seconds Wednesday night at Williams Arena and simply turned to Maurice Walker, a nondescript junior forward, to handle the scoring.
Walker killed UW inside early to set the tone and the Gophers rode the early momentum to an 81-68 Big Ten victory.
“It’s something that is very frustrating,” UW sophomore forward Sam Dekker, who scored a game-high 20 points, said of the Badgers’ porous defense. “It is something that is very bold on our list right now and we have to correct and we have to buckle down.
“There’s not much else you can say other than we have to be better in every aspect on the defensive end.
“Usually we take pride in it, and this is embarrassing.”
Led by Walker, the Gophers (15-5, 4-3 Big Ten) killed UW in the paint and improved their home record to 12-1.
UW’s free fall from the top of the Big Ten continued with a third consecutive loss.
The Badgers (16-3, 3-3 Big Ten) fell into a tie for fifth place with idle Purdue (13-6, 3-3).
Purdue, which hosts UW at 4 p.m. Saturday, suffered a 63-60 loss in two overtimes Tuesday at Northwestern.
Walker entered the game averaging 4.9 points per game this season. His college-high scoring effort was 11 points.
But after UW center Frank Kaminsky picked up his second foul less than three minutes into the game and headed to the bench for the remainder of the first half, the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Walker controlled the lane.
He scored 12 points in the first 9 minutes 57 seconds to help the Gophers build a 21-15 lead and finished with 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting as the Gophers continued to impress under first-year coach Richard Pitino.
“That’s definitely frustrating to watch, that I couldn’t be out there and do anything about it,” said Kaminsky, who finished with nine points and four rebounds. “I was sitting there for 17 minutes or whatever it is.
“That’s one of the most frustrating things to sit there and watch and know you can’t do anything about it.”
With Kaminsky out, Ryan tried freshman Nigel Hayes (12 points), Zach Bohannon and freshman Vitto Brown but found no stopper.
“You better try something,” Ryan said.
With Walker slowed in the second half, junior guard DeAndre Mathieu scored 13 of his 18 points after halftime. Mathieu hit two of two 3-pointers but used his quickness to get into the lane for jumpers or floaters. He hit 8 of 13 shots overall.
“He was very good getting to the rim, and we let him have too many opportunities,” Kaminsky said. “He capitalized on them.”
Guard Malik Smith added 14, including 10 in the second half for the Gophers. Fellow guard Austin Hollins added all 11 of his points in the second half.
Minnesota entered the game eighth in the Big Ten in shooting (43.7 percent). The Gophers shot 51.7 percent in the opening half (15 of 29) in building a 34-28 lead and finished at 58.9 percent (33 of 56).
The point total was the highest for Minnesota against UW since the 1993-’94 season when the Gophers routed UW, 109-78, in Madison.
Indiana shot 51.6 percent in handing UW a 75-72 loss.
Michigan shot 54.7 percent in handing UW a 77-70 loss.
Minnesota topped those marks in handing UW a 13-point loss.
Anyone else notice a troubling trend?
“With the results it was clear we gave up way too many easy ones,” UW junior guard Josh Gasser said. “We kept working it and working it and they made some tough ones.
“But at the same time they made a few easy ones that got them going…. I’m kind of sick and of talking about it. We’ve got to do it.”
Kaminsky was asked if he agreed with Dekker’s assessment that the defensive execution has been embarrassing.
“That’s accurate,” he said. “If you look at the points we’ve given up… it has been embarrassing to say the least.”