INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota’s weekend just got a whole lot more stressful.
Instead of preparing for Saturday’s semifinals, the Golden Gophers will spend Saturday and Sunday poring over game film, trying to fix what went wrong in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals and anxiously wait to see if they’ve done enough to make the NCAA tournament.
They don’t have a choice after Friday night’s embarrassing exit.
Ben Brust scored a career-high 29 points, Frank Kaminsky grabbed 12 rebounds the Badgers’ staunch defense got the Golden Gophers completely out of whack as Wisconsin ran away with an 83-57 victory.
“We just hope we get a chance to get in the tournament,” said DeAndre Mathieu, who had 18 points for Minnesota. “Regardless of whether we’re playing in the NIT next week or the NCAA tournament, we’re going to work hard and try to make a run.”
Joey King was the only other player to reach double figures for Minnesota (20-13). He finished with 14 points.
After picking up win No. 20 on Thursday, coach Richard Pitino sounded confident about his team’s chances for one of the 36 at-large bids.
His stance changed slightly after Friday night’s debacle.
“Listen, I hope we get into the NCAA tournament. I feel that we played one of the best schedules in the country, and that’s normally what they want you to do,” Pitino said. “But with that being said, whatever tournament we are in - we’re disappointed tonight - but I’m proud of how hard these guys have played this whole year.”
The Badgers wanted to send a message.
They showed up in new practice shirts, which read “The Badger Way.” Then they went out and showed everyone what that means with an aggressive, disciplined and devastating game.
“The epitome of the Badger Way would be Ben and Josh (Gasser),” Nigel Hayes explained. “They’re always hustling, they never take plays off, as Coach (Bo) Ryan said, they put their face on the ball, grinding it out, no easy possessions for the other team. I feel like when all of us play games together like we did today, we get the results that we got today.”
And it made a difference.
It was the largest victory margin in the first two days of this year’s tourney.
The second-seeded Badgers aren’t finished yet, either.