MADISON, Wis. – Andre Hollins had the step on Sam Dekker and a clear path to the basket for a shot.
Not so fast, Minnesota.
Dekker recovered to swat the ball way from behind in front of a raucous Wisconsin student section, a play that exemplified the 21st-ranked Badgers energetic effort up front in a 78-70 win over the Gophers on Thursday night.
Hollins finished with 22. He combined with Malik Smith to hit 3s on two late possessions to get to 73-68 with 55.2 seconds left after Wisconsin let Minnesota hang around because of late woes at the foul line.
Ben Brust finally sealed the win with two foul shots for an eight-point lead with 38 seconds left.
Quite the different outcome from when the teams last met on Jan. 22, an 81-68 win for Minnesota sparked by a 48-26 edge in the paint.
"Oh polar opposites," coach Richard Pitino said when asked about the improvement in Wisconsin's defense. "They did a great job of not allowing us to throw the ball in the paint, into the post, where we really had our way with that at home."
Frank Kaminsky scored 17 points for the Badgers, fellow forward Nigel Hayes added 15 and Dekker finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Wisconsin (20-5, 7-5 Big Ten) benefited from a hot start up front. The Badgers are at their best active in the lane, and that was the case on both ends of the floor in building a 13-point lead against sloppy Minnesota (16-9, 5-7).
Brust, the senior guard, finished with a team-high 20 points. Smith scored 14, and he and Hollins each hit four 3-pointers.
Fast-paced Minnesota was clearly the better transition team. The Gophers would have had much better luck if had a better hold of the ball.
Minnesota had eight turnovers alone in the first half — one more than they had the entire game in a 13-point win over Wisconsin last month.
"We were making plays that just were uncharacteristic of us, for whatever reason," Pitino said. "Because that is not what they do, that don't turn over a lot of guys."
The Gophers finished with 13 turnovers on the night. That won't cut it against Wisconsin, even after some late buckets helped get their shooting percentage up to 45 percent.
Conversely, Wisconsin seemed energized all night against their border rivals, with the frontcourt leading the way.
"It has a lot to do with the last time we played them — us bigs were weak on offense," Kaminsky said. "We wanted to come out with more energy and I think we needed that."
A seven-point halftime lead stretched to double digits for much of the latter part of the second half. Dekker jumped high for an inbounds pass near midcourt, then drove to the basket for a left-handed layup and eight-point lead with about 13 minutes left.
Kaminsky went up and under around two defenders for another bucket before Dekker and Joey King went to the floor on Minnesota's next possession scrambling for a loose ball. King ended up throwing the ball away for a turnover.
Later, Hollins beat Dekker by a step for a path to the lane, but forward recovered to swat the shot away from behind toward the "Grateful Red" student section with a 51-41 lead midway through the second half.
That defensive slump that led to a three-game losing streak for Wisconsin last month seems to be just a distant memory now.
"I just thought we were better," coach Bo Ryan said when asked about the difference from the last Minnesota game. "Working hard. Reading and reacting to one another."
Foul trouble also hurt Minnesota, with frontcourt players Eliott Eliason and King saddled with four apiece in the latter part of the second half. King and guard Austin Hollins ended up fouling out.
The Gophers are now 1-4 since beating then-No. 9 Wisconsin last month.
DeAndre Mathieu finished with eight points, six rebounds and six assists for Minnesota.