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January 6, 2007

Defense leads the way in Wisconsin win

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MADISON, Wis. -Alando Tucker scored 14 points to help No. 4 Wisconsin open its Big Ten season with a 68-45 victory over Minnesota on Saturday.

The Badgers (15-1, 1-0) recovered from a slow start to take a 17-point lead at halftime, then held the Golden Gophers scoreless for the first 6 1/2 minutes of the second half.

It was one of several extended scoring droughts for Minnesota (7-9, 1-1) in its worst offensive performance of the season.

Wisconsin, already carrying its highest national ranking in school history, may have a chance to move up in the polls this week after No. 1 UCLA lost to Oregon 68-66 earlier Saturday. But the Badgers face a tough test in No. 6 Ohio State in Madison on Tuesday night.

Despite the loss, the Gophers are 5-4 under interim coach Jim Molinari, who took over on Nov. 30 after Dan Monson accepted a buyout and resigned after the Gophers hit a five-game losing streak.

Forward Dan Coleman led Minnesota with 15 points.

Kammron Taylor had 13 points and Michael Flowers added 11 for the Badgers, but Wisconsin's defense made the difference.

The Gophers' 45-point performance eclipsed their season low of 53 in a loss to Southern Illinois on Nov. 24. Minnesota shot 34.7 percent against Wisconsin, its second-worst shooting performance this season.

The Gophers had won two straight coming into Saturday, opening conference play under Molinari, a former head coach at Bradley, with a home victory over Purdue on Wednesday.

Minnesota led Wisconsin for the first 10-plus minutes of a low-scoring first half, getting early points from Coleman and Spencer Tollackson.

But Wisconsin came back to take a 16-15 lead on a soaring two-handed dunk by Tucker off an alley-oop pass from Taylor with 9:14 left.

Wisconsin built a 37-20 lead by halftime, and Minnesota couldn't mount a comeback as the game devolved into a clankfest early in the second half.

Neither team hit a field goal for nearly the first five minutes after halftime, with Wisconsin's only points coming off two free throws.

Taylor finally grabbed a loose ball at midcourt and drove for a layup to extend Wisconsin's lead to 41-20 with 15:18 to go.

Coleman scored with 13:30 left, the Gophers' first points since Tollackson made two free throws with 1:06 left in the first half and their first field goal since Jamal Abu-Shamala hit a 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining before halftime.

Of course, Coleman's shot only counted after Wisconsin's Greg Stiemsma was called for goaltending.

Wisconsin has won 11 straight games since its only loss of the season to Missouri State on Nov. 24.

For more coverage of Wisconsin, visit BadgerBlitz.com; for more on Minnesota, visit GopherIllustrated.com.

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