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Big Ten showdown pits Badgers against Gophers

A couple of teams jockeying for position in competitive Big Ten Conference meet in Minneapolis tonight, as ranked Wisconsin Badgers.

At present, Minnesota owns a 100-89 advantage in the all-time series, and the Gophers are 67-30 against the Badgers in Minneapolis. The last meeting between the two took place in Madison on December 28, 2010, and Wisconsin snapped a three-game losing streak against Minnesota by claiming a 68-60 victory.

Wisconsin is an impressive 18-6 on the season, and the team has won seven of its 11 conference bouts thus far. The Badgers recently had a six-game win streak snapped with a 58-52 loss at home to Ohio State last Saturday, dropping the team's home record to 11-4. UW has won its last three road games, and is 5-2 on enemy turf this season.

Minnesota is enjoying a successful campaign of its own, logging a 17-7 record, which includes a 12-2 ledger at home. Unfortunately, the Golden Gophers have gone just 5-6 in conference, although they've played better in recent weeks, winning two of their last three and five of their last seven. A 69-61 victory at Nebraska last Sunday was the team's most recent, and UM will play five of its remaining seven games of the regular season at home.

Wisconsin continues to play the kind of stifling defense only it can, as the Badgers are still the nation's top team in terms of points allowed (49.8 ppg). Foes are shooting just 36.5 percent from the field, which includes a dismal 26.2 percent showing from three-point range, and UW owns favorable margins in both rebounding (+3.2) and turnovers (+2.3) as well. Jordan Taylor (14.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.4 apg) is one of three players currently averaging double digits in the scoring column for coach Bo Ryan's club, which puts up 64.1 ppg on the strength of its 42.9 percent shooting from the floor, and 35.6 percent from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, while Taylor's scoring average rises to 16.1 ppg against conference opponents, the team's dips to 59.3 ppg while its average yield rises to 55.9 ppg. Ryan Evans scored 14 points to lead four players in double figures, but the Badgers shot just 40 percent from the floor in what turned out to be a six-point loss to Ohio State last weekend. Both teams struggled from long range, with UW going just 5-of-27 (.185) and OSU a paltry 1-of-7 (.143). The Buckeyes used a 13-3 edge in points from the foul line, as well as a 15-9 advantage in second-chance points to claim the victory.

The loss of star forward Trevor Mbakwe after only seven games should have spelled disaster for Minnesota, but coach Tubby Smith rallied his troops and the team has gone on to be a thorn in the side of many an opponent this year. At present, the Gophers have just a pair of 10 ppg scorers in Rodney Williams and Julian Welch, but the team as a whole is generating 69.2 ppg on 47.5 percent field goal efficiency and 36.0 percent from beyond the arc. The team's defensive effort holds the opposition to 63.3 ppg, with those foes shooting just 41.4 percent from the floor and 33.9 percent from three-point land. Since the start of Big Ten play, UM is netting nearly the same number of points as it permits (67.7 ppg to 67.4 ppg). Chip Armelin came off the bench to score 15 points to lead Minnesota to victory in its recent bout with Nebraska, while Welch was the only starter to reach double figures as he drained all three of his three-point tries en route to 10 points. As a team, the Gophers connected on 54.0 percent of their total shots, nailing 7-of-17 three-point attempts along the way, and they won the rebounding battle, 31-24, while holding the Cornhuskers to 43.8 percent field goal efficiency.