Win over Gophers clinches 1st round bye in Big Ten tournament

first_imgWisconsin will be looking for another stellar performance from Jared Berggren Tuesday after he netted 18 points and hit a clutch 3-pointer to help take down Ohio State Sunday. He also held Jared Sullinger to just eight points.[/media-credit]Things are just beginning to heat up.After falling to eighth-place Iowa Thursday and regrouping for a thrilling 63-60 victory over then-No. 9 Ohio State, the final chances to jockey for a desirable position in time for the Big Ten tournament are well underway for No. 15 Wisconsin.With an up-and-down weekend behind them, the Badgers (21-8,10-6 Big Ten) remain in fourth place in the conference with two more games remaining in the regular season. A pat position in the standings alone would earn the Badgers a bye week in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, which hits Indianapolis March 8-11. A win in either of its next two games guarantees Wisconsin a top-four seed, and in head coach Bo Ryan’s 11 years at UW, the Badgers have never finished below fourth in the league.Tuesday night at the Kohl Center, the Badgers will attempt to once again bolster their conference standing against the Minnesota Gophers (17-12, 5-11). Wisconsin will be playing its third game in six days, against a Minnesota team that took it to overtime in Minneapolis Feb. 9 before the Badgers escaped with a 68-61 win.“You can’t take any night off in the Big Ten,” forward/center Jared Berggren said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing; a team that’s at the top of the standings or the bottom. Every team’s going to play hard, every team’s going to compete and every team is capable of beating anyone, really.“There can’t be any letdowns, and we have to keep our focus, keep our mental edge and be prepared to take their best shot and give our best shot right back at them.”The Badgers will also be bracing for the best effort from a desperate Gophers team that has now lost five straight games after losing to No. 23 Indiana 69-50 at home Sunday. Prior to that loss, Minnesota might have still had a decent opportunity at sneaking into the NCAA Tournament in March. Now, though, the Gophers almost assuredly need to win out and get help from other teams sitting on the tournament bubble.Coupled with Wisconsin’s short respite between games, Minnesota’s need for a victory has the Badgers expecting just as tough of a contest, if not tougher, than the one they saw earlier this month.“I’d say it’s freshness, not only physically but mentally,” guard Josh Gasser said of the most difficult part of the short layover. “You’ve just got to stay focused. Only getting one day to prepare for a team, you’ve got to go into that day of practice and really mentally prepare and focus on what’s coming next.”In avoiding a losing streak of its own against Ohio State, Wisconsin set forth one of its finest efforts of the season. UW went for the rim all day and hit 9-of-11 free throw attempts compared to 2-of-3 in the losing effort against Iowa.Berggren was the Badgers’ shining star Sunday, scoring 18 points on 6-for-13 shooting – including 3-for-7 from 3-point land. He also provided the go-ahead points for UW, hitting a clutch 3-pointer with 31 seconds left that sent the Badger bench into a frenzy.Berggren also scored Wisconsin’s final five points, setting forth a performance that was night-and-day different from his first against Ohio State, when Berggren allowed the Buckeyes’ preseason All-American forward Jared Sullinger to score 24 points and grab 10 rebounds. Berggren did score 10 points in that game, though he played only 24 minutes after Ryan’s discouragement with his defense on Sullinger was evident.“It is pretty exciting; it’s a little surreal, I guess you could say,” Berggren said of Sunday’s win. “But it’s something that we feel like we can beat anyone, we can compete with anyone. To get a good win on the road like that is definitely something to be proud of. But … we’ve got another game coming tomorrow, so no time to sit and dream about that one. You’ve got to move on to what’s next.”With its last two games at home – Illinois visits Sunday – Wisconsin could enter the Big Ten Tournament riding a three-game win streak, should it win both contests.Yet, one year after they finished 9-0 in conference games at home, the Badgers are only 4-3 at the Kohl Center in Big Ten play this year. UW’s 6-3 road record has maintained that top-four status in the conference, though the Badgers’ failures at home certainly still resonate as February draws to a close.“I’d have thought we’d have a better shot at getting a share of the title,” Berggren said. “If you had told us we were going to be 6-3 on the road, I’d like to think we could’ve taken care of business better at home than we were able to do. But we’ve got two more chances to win at the Kohl Center, and that’s our focus now.”last_img