MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Jordan Taylor scored 22 points and Jon Leuer added 16 to lead Wisconsin to a 68-60 upset of No. 14 Minnesota on Tuesday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Taylor and Leuer, both from the state of Minnesota, again played key roles in Wisconsin’s eighth straight win in a conference opener. Wisconsin (11-2) is 70-6 against Big Ten opponents at the Kohl Center under coach Bo Ryan.
Minnesota (11-2) took the lead on Trevor Mbakwe’s dunk with just under 7 minutes to play, but Wisconsin answered with two 3-pointers and Taylor and Leuer hit all seven free throws in the final 1:12 to seal the win.
Mbakwe finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds and Ralph Sampson III had 14 points, including the Gophers’ final six, before fouling out.
Trailing by double digits early in the second half, Mbakwe changed the momentum as the Gophers chipped away at Wisconsin’s lead. His basket cut Wisconsin’s lead to 50-48 and then a slam gave Minnesota a 54-53 advantage with 6:55 left, the Gophers’ first lead in more than 19 minutes.
Keaton Nankivil and Taylor hit 3s on trips around a basket by Sampson to put Wisconsin ahead 59-56 before both teams went cold with four straight misses on each end.
Sampson hit the first of two free throws with 2 minutes left, but Minnesota was able to get the loose ball and Sampson was again fouled. He again made one of two free throws and the Gophers trailed 59-58.
Taylor then forced Sampson to switch on him on defense, drove to the basket and converted a three-point play that put Wisconsin up with 1:12 left.
Sampson answered with a jumper to make it 62-60 with 53 seconds to go, but that was it.
After Taylor missed, Leuer grabbed his ninth rebound and had to be fouled, but Minnesota needed three fouls to put Wisconsin in the bonus. Sampson was charged with all three, giving him four fouls in a 56-second span to end his night.
Leuer hit the ensuing free throws with 16 seconds left to put the Badgers ahead 64-60 and Devoe Joseph, who finished with 14 points, missed a jumper on the other end.
Taylor, who had just five total points against Minnesota in three previous games, and Leuer, who’d averaged 6.6 points in five games against the Gophers, finished with four more free throws in the final 10 seconds for the final margin.
This is the only matchup between the border rivals this year, and the Badgers snapped a three-game losing streak in this series after committing two turnovers for the game.
Minnesota is one of only three Big Ten opponents to win at the Kohl Center against Ryan after last year’s overtime victory, but the Gophers couldn’t repeat the feat even with a less-than-intimidating crowd.
The student section had dozens of empty seats because of holiday break and many more fans are in California for the Rose Bowl in four days. That gave some plucky Gophers’ fans prime seats in the first three rows of the student section and there was plenty of contrasting gold throughout the arena.
Minnesota took a 19-14 lead before Taylor erased a slow start and scored nine straight points for Wisconsin, the final two on free throws that sparked a 9-2 run to put the Badgers ahead 30-24.
Leuer hit a 3-pointer to give him 1,000 career points in the first half and Wisconsin pushed the lead to 40-30 early in the second off another 3 by Leuer and a jumper in the lane by Taylor.
Minnesota announced before the game that reserve freshman big man Maurice Walker is out for the season with a torn ligament and cartilage in his right knee after being hurt last week against South Dakota State.
Tubby Smith on NewsRadio 830 WCCO
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