The only thing uglier than its performance in the first half was the way the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team executed down the stretch.
Both stretches contributed heavily to the No. 22 Badgers’ shocking 59-52 loss to Minnesota on Thursday night at the Kohl Center.
Amir Coffey scored 15 of his game-high 21 points before halftime to help the Golden Gophers (12-2, 2-1 Big Ten) end an eight-game losing streak to the Badgers.
Dupree McBrayer turned two steals into easy baskets down the stretch and finished with 14 points to help Minnesota win at the Kohl Center for the first time in almost a decade.
Senior center Ethan Happ scored 17 points and sophomore forward Nate Reuvers added 12 for UW (10-4, 2-1), which couldn’t overcome a miserable shooting performance from 3-point range and the free throw line and some costly mistakes down the stretch.
UW finished 5 of 22 from beyond the arc and 7 of 17 from the line. Happ and senior forward Khalil Iverson were a combined 2 of 11 from the line, and those misses killed momentum during a rally by the Badgers late in the game.
After scoring only 14 points in the first half, the Badgers started the second half with a 12-2 run and were within 34-28 after a hook shot by Happ with 13:21 remaining.
But Brock Stull, a graduate transfer from UW-Milwaukee, answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to push the Gophers’ lead back to double digits.
The Gophers looked to be in control of the game after McBrayer hit a 3-pointer to make it 49-38 with 6:12 left, but UW answered with the next nine points.
Junior guard Brevin Pritzl made a pair of free throws and sophomore point guard D’Mitrik Trice drained a 3-pointer. Happ sandwiched a basket between four missed free throws – two from Iverson, two from Happ – and a runner by Trice cut Minnesota’s lead to 49-47 with 2:04 left.
But Coffey hit a floater after getting caught in the air, and McBrayer stripped Trice and Davison on consecutive possessions to set up easy transition baskets.
Coffey outscored UW by himself to help the Gophers build a 29-14 halftime lead.
UW went 6 of 26 overall from the field in the first half and 2 of 14 from 3-point range. The brutal percentages attached to those numbers: 23.1 and 14.3, respectively.
After taking a 6-2 lead early in the game, UW went the next 9:02 without a point. Pritzl hit a 3-pointer to finally end a run of 13 consecutive empty possessions and a hook shot by Happ on the next possession cut the Badgers’ deficit to 14-11, but Coffey took over from there.
He scored all 15 of his first-half points over the final 7:03, including nine in a row at one point.
This story will be updated.