Hughes leads Badgers' domination of Minnesota
A bad shooting performance and failure to execute their rules a week ago at Purdue made the Badgers hungry and eager to prove they can win on the road and make a statement in the process.
Thanks to another sound defensive performance and Trevon Hughes, the statement was made with sound punctuation.
Setting the pace from Minnesota’s opening possession, stealing a pass from the Gophers’ Damien Johnson and taking it for an easy layup, Hughes scored 11 of his game-high 20 points in the first half. That helped the Badgers build a 19-point lead and maintain it, resulting in a 63-47 victory in Big Ten men’s basketball here Sunday.
The win lifted Wisconsin (18-3, 8-1) into a tie and Purdue for first place in the Big Ten, a half-game ahead of Indiana (17-3, 7-1).
Continuing to develop into the role as Wisconsin’s point guard, Hughes had a performance against Minnesota (13-7, 3-5) that showed he is only scratching the surface of his potential.
While shooting efficiently on field-goal attempts (6-of-11 overall and 2-for-4 from the perimeter) and drawing contact driving to the basket (making six of seven free throws), Hughes was vital in creating offense for his teammates, not just himself.
With Hughes at the point, the Badgers shot 57.7 percent in the first half and made a season-high seven three-point goals for the game.
“His decision-making helps everything in a point-guard offense,” said UW senior Brian Butch, who added 11 points and three blocks. “This offense is a point-guard offense. If you’ve got a good point guard, you’re going to be a good team.”
But what made the Badgers click against the Gophers was a 29-10 run to open the game, sparked by two big steals by Hughes, with the second one being climaxed by a thunderous dunk on the other end.
Hughes tied a season-high six steals and helped the Badgers convert Minnesota’s 18 turnovers into 20 for Wisconsin.
“The defense is what gets us started,” Hughes said. “If the shots aren’t falling, you can always go back and play good defense. Good defense always leads to something good.”
Minnesota, whose 47-point total was 27 below its season average, couldn’t get its two main offensive weapons off the elevated floor. Seniors Lawrence McKenzie (11.3 ppg) Spencer Tollackson (10.7) and were held to a combined 11 points.
“I thought our guys stuck to the task well,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “I’ve got to give my team credit for playing well together.”
Meanwhile, the Badgers had plenty of other players fill up the stat sheet. Forward Joe Krabbenhoft registered five assists, senior Michael Flowers grabbed eight rebounds, and junior Marcus Landry—with NBA older brother Carl in attendance—scored 11 points.
“He finished stronger than he has,” said Ryan of Landry. “He had some opportunities that he should have shot 50 percent or better, and he knows that, too. We still have to keep working on that.”
Although Ryan, the perfectionist, pointed out that Hughes had four turnovers—stating “those are things that we would like to discuss and will”—the coach was proud to highlight that his point guard has begun to develop into the role he was brought to Madison to fill.
“In his steals, he’s been in better position, not taking himself out of position as much and he’s not reaching. So he’s not sitting on the bench for as many minutes,” Ryan said.
“For offense, (he has) better decisions and better control. He’s much better now than he was earlier in the year. He’s been tested by some teams, and he has improved.”
And because of it, the Badgers are likely to improve on their national rating today.