Feb. 18, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS (AP)--Blake Hoffarber had 16 points and nine rebounds to lead inspired Minnesota to a 68-52 victory over No. 14 Wisconsin on Thursday night, putting a big dent in the Badgers' Big Ten title bid.

Trevon Hughes scored 19 points and Jason Bohannon added 18 for Wisconsin (19-7, 9-5), which went almost 8 minutes without scoring down the stretch and was outrebounded 41-28 for the game.

Junior forward Jon Leuer returned from a broken left wrist that kept him out of the last nine games, but he shot just 2 of 12 and finished with four points. Ralph Sampson III's defense had a hand in that for Minnesota (15-10, 6-7), adding 10 points and eight rebounds.

The Badgers exploited the Gophers' transparent perimeter defense as most teams in the conference have, but their usual dominant defense was missing some fire. They are still a lock for the NCAA tournament, but this was a big blow.

Hoffarber, the nation's leading 3-point shooter, wasn't just camping out behind the circle as he sometimes does. He ran off screens and flashed to the lane a few times, too.

Bohannon, coming off a career-high 30-point game against Indiana last weekend, knocked down two 3-pointers midway through the second half and got the Badgers within 45-42 at the 9:40 mark.

They didn't score again until a 3-pointer by Hughes with less than 2 minutes left. The drought included three misses on one possession that ended with a huge rebound by the 6-foot-4 Hoffarber.

Devoe Joseph swished a 3 from the right wing to make it 54-42, holding his wrist up to freeze the follow-through for emphasis as he skipped back to the other end. Sampson followed with a dunk a minute later, stretching the lead to a game-high 16 points.

The Gophers looked a lot like the close-cropped Badgers, literally, with freshly shaved heads to honor junior forward Paul Carter's younger sister, Bria, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

That might have been the inspiration they needed after losing six of their previous eight games, including a blown 13-point lead in the last 8 minutes of an overtime loss at Northwestern last weekend that beat up their already-blemished NCAA tournament bid.

Boosted, too, by a rare sweep of Wisconsin last season, Minnesota was plenty pumped up to play its biggest rival in their only meeting this season.

The student section had an edge, too, frequently mocking Badgers coach Bo Ryan with an obscene chant and tossing harmless objects at the handful of brave Wisconsin fans penetrating the sea of gold with their red wear.

Hoffarber had them hollering right away, hitting his second 3 with Hughes's hand in his face to make it 14-8 Minnesota and after a timeout joining Damian Johnson for a jubilant body bump at midcourt.

The 6-10 Leuer is Wisconsin's most versatile player, able to score in the post and on the perimeter, but he looked out of rhythm and missed his first six shots.

Gophers coach Tubby Smith didn't start Sampson and Colton Iverson next to each other in the frontcourt like he hinted earlier, but he did play them together at times to help neutralize Leuer and Wisconsin's other long-armed big men down low.

Ryan was growling about the officiating, with 10 fouls on Wisconsin and four on Minnesota late in the first half, and was slapped with a technical foul. Hoffarber made both free throws, and the Gophers stretched their lead to 35-26 at halftime. Ryan sarcastically clapped as he walked in between the refs on the way to the locker room.