This weekend’s key Big Ten matchup features basketball’s edition of the Battle of Paul Bunyan’s Axe, as the Golden Gophers of Minnesota travel to Wisconsin to take on the Badgers.
These two teams have always been rivals, and games between these two schools always reach a different level of hype. The 24-2 Badgers, including a 12-1 conference record, are coming off their ninth win in a row, while the 16-11 Gophers (5-9 in the Big Ten) have had a disappointing season to date.
This will be the first meeting between these two teams in 2015, their next matchup is scheduled on March 5 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. A season ago, these two teams played each other three times, including a matchup in the Big Ten Tournament, where the Badgers beat the Gophers by 23 points. The Badgers are coming off their ninth straight win this past Wednesday night, winning at Penn State by the final score of 55-47. Although the Badgers came away with the victory, it was not their best game of the season by any means. The Badgers turned the ball over eight times, and shot only 5-22 from three-point land and 10-15 from the free throw line. They also received zero points from their bench and suffered multiple lapses on defense. They allowed Penn State guard D.J. Newbill to score 29 points on 13-21 shooting. On a positive note, the Badgers received a career high 22 points from junior forward Sam Dekker, who has been playing phenomenal basketball. The Badgers also got solid production out of senior center, and possible Wooden Player of the Year, Frank Kaminsky, who contributed 16 points and nine rebounds, as well as from sophomore forward Nigel Hayes, who added nien points and 13 rebounds.
The Gophers have lost their last two games, including this past Wednesday’s bout at home against Northwestern, in a game where they allowed the Wildcats to connect on 15 three pointers. Three of the Gophers losses this season have come against ranked teams, but they have still struggled to perform at a high level, even against some of the more mediocre teams in the conference this season. The Gophers have a veteran team, led by senior guard Andre Hollins, so there’s no reason why they cannot make a run in the Big Ten Tournament in a few weeks. Hollins is leading the team in scoring this season, averaging over 15 points a game.
Tipoff comes at 11am Central time on Saturday morning. Who will have possession of basketball’s axe after these teams’ first games against one another? We will have to wait and see! Here’s to another exciting weekend of college basketball!
*Section Photo credit to Mike McGinnis, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Kevin Jairaj, USA Today Sports