It will be a homecoming for a trio of Badger players Thursday night as #20 Wisconsin (17-7, 8-3) travels West to take on the Gophers of Minnesota (17-7, 5-6) at "The Barn".
The Badgers have three Minnesota natives on the roster, including Seniors Jared Berggren (Princeton, MN) and Mike Bruesewitz (St. Paul, MN) who will be playing in their home state for the last time of their college careers. Sophomore Jordan Smith (Orno, MN) is the third Badger from the Gopher state.
The three Minnesotans notched their first win at The Barn last season in Wisconsin's 68-61 win in an OT thriller.
Minnesota enters Thursday's game itching for a win. The Gophers are currently on a two game skid after falling to Michigan State on the road and losing a disappointing game to Illinois at home on Sunday.
The first meeting between these two teams at the Kohl Center was a grind it out defensive battle- a style that surely favors Wisconsin. The Badgers got the best of the Gophers 45-44 thanks to two huge jumpers down the stretch by Traevon Jackson, including a rim-bouncer that dropped with 2.1 seconds left to give Wisconsin the victory.
A key for the Badgers in that victory was Wisconsin's defensive performance. They held Minnesota to a 34.8% shooting night while cleaning up the glass, out-rebounding the Gophers by four.
While the Badgers did not have a stellar offensive performance that night (17-46 37% shooting, 10 turnovers), the defense effort was enough to propel Bucky to win on their home floor. Playing in front of a rabid Minnesota crowd, it's safe to say the Badgers will need to shoot better then 37% tonight to beat the Gophers.
The Badgers have been much better on the offensive end recently and will need to continue that trend if they want to take down the Gophers. Games like these are huge for Wisconsin if they want to win a Big Ten title; losing tonight would severely ruin their chances.
I think we'll see Minnesota Natives Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz come out swinging in their final encore in the Gopher state. The Badgers will sneak out of this one with a win.