MADISON, Wis. - With the game tied in the final seconds and Wisconsin desperately needing a home victory to keep pace in the Big Ten Conference, head coach Bo Ryan put the ball in a pair of unlikely hands.
Sophomore point guard Traevon Jackson came into the game tied for sixth on the team with 5.6 points and was shooting just 33 percent from the field. With some more experienced and slightly hotter hands on the court, surely this was a time for Jackson to improve on his 44 assists.
Instead, Jackson worked the shot and game clocks down and put up the go-ahead shot with just 1.8 seconds left in what would eventually be a 45-44 victory over No. 12 Minnesota.
"I didn't have any doubt (that I was going to get the shot)," Jackson said. "I needed to step up and hit those shots. Luckily my teammates were able to get me open and I was able to knock it down."
Even after Jackson's go-ahead shot, Wisconsin still had reason to sweat. Taking the inbounds pass from Rodney Williams, Trevor Mbakwe was fouled by Wisconsin's Mike Bruesewitz with 1.7 left on the clock. Mbakwe was injured on the play. After a somewhat lengthy delay, he made his way to the bench and Ryan selected Williams, who was 0 for 6 from the field already, to shoot the two free throws.
"That was their choice," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. "Rodney is a very talented player. But mentally, psychologically, I think he's in a bit of a funk."
He made the first shot but missed his second. The Badgers' Sam Dekker pulled down the rebound and finally sealed the victory for Wisconsin, which snapped a two-game losing streak.
Jackson finished with nine points, one off the team lead of 10, set by Dekker and Ryan Evans. Evans pulled down a team-leading eight rebounds, to go along with three assists and a blocked shot.
The erratic shooting that has plagued the Badgers for much of the season was on display again Saturday. The Badgers went 17 of 46 from the field (37 percent) and made just 7 of 22 3-pointers.
"We're saving the university money," Ryan said. "These nets will be around 10 years the way we're shooting. But as long as we're playing defense and playing hard, that's where the game is won for us."
The Badgers weren't alone in their cold-shooting ways.
Minnesota shot 35.6 percent from the field, but kept up with Wisconsin by making 5 of 10 3-pointers. Andre Hollins led the way, making three of four attempts and finished with a game-high 20 points to go along with five assists and two steals.
Mbakwe pulled down 10 rebounds but finished with just eight points, snapping a streak of four straight games with a double-double.
Wisconsin and Minnesota each came into the game needing a victory to snap early losing streaks and keep pace in a tight Big Ten Conference race. The Badgers had lost back-to-back contests, falling at Iowa last Saturday and then at home against Michigan State on Tuesday. The Gophers, meanwhile, had dropped three in a row, the most recent a 55-48 decision at Northwestern Wednesday.
Against Wisconsin, the Gophers committed nine turnovers -- leading to 13 Wisconsin points -- and were outrebounded 35-29.
"That's how you get beat," Smith said. "Making mistakes like we have. That's a recipe for getting a loss, not being disciplined defensively."
Neither team got off to a particularly sharp start, going a combined 5 for 15 from the field.
Evans' two free throws with 4:46 to play in the first drew an ovation from the Kohl Center crowd, thanks to the Badgers' woeful 39 percent effort from the line in a loss to Michigan State earlier in the week. Those shots sparked a 13-2 Wisconsin run to close out the half, allowing the Badgers to take a 24-21 lead in the final seconds of the half before Hollins hit three free throws to tie the game 24-24 with 0.2 seconds left.
Notes: Minnesota came into the game averaging 16.2 offensive rebounds per game but recorded just one in the first half and finished with eight. ... Wisconsin was averaging 9.1 turnovers a game but committed eight in the first half, finishing with 10 for the game. ... Minnesota leads the all-time series between the teams, 100-92. ... The Badgers have won 15 of the last 16 meetings with Minnesota in Madison, where the Gophers have won just once since 1994.
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