Minnesota 60, No. 19 Wisconsin 50

Saturday, February 5th 2005, 2:16 pm
By: News On 6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Vince Grier scored 26 of his career-high 32 points in the second half to lead Minnesota to a 60-50 victory over No. 19 Wisconsin on Saturday.

Grier, who missed five of seven shots in the first half, completely took over the game after the break _ going 12-for-14 from the field and matching the Badgers' second-half total by himself.

The Gophers (16-6, 6-3 Big Ten), picked by most people to finish at or near the bottom of the conference, continued their surprising success and enhanced their chances of taking coach Dan Monson to the NCAA tournament for the first time in his six seasons at the school.

Mike Wilkinson led Wisconsin (15-5, 6-3) with 14 points. He opened the second half with a 3-pointer to cap a 19-6 run that lasted nearly 14 minutes, but then Grier got it going with Minnesota trailing 27-22.

Jumpers from the wing, pull-up shots off the drive, fast-break layups _ he was essentially unstoppable. A junior college transfer with an unusual shooting style, the left-handed Grier left no doubt that it was his day when he banked in an 18-footer from the top of the key to give the Gophers a 52-44 lead with 5:14 left.

The student section chanted his name, and _ holding the ball on the game's final possession _ Grier pointed an index finger toward the upper deck where a sign advertising his fan club was raised.

Alando Tucker, returning from a two-game absence because of an injury to his right foot, had 12 points for the Badgers, whose seven-game winning streak against Minnesota ended.

The Gophers, who lead the conference in steals, used effective full-court pressure to hound the Badgers into an uncharacteristic six turnovers during the game's first eight minutes and built a 15-5 lead after a little more than six minutes.

Monson put out a call during the week for Minnesota's fans to pack the place with gold attire, and the crowd of 14,244 _ the largest this season at Williams Arena _ did its best to drown out the red-clad Wisconsin supporters scattered throughout the arena.

The Badgers allow an average of slightly less than 60 points per game, best in the Big Ten, and their half-court defense was stifling. The Gophers just couldn't get a good look after their early spurt. They missed 19 of their last 22 field-goal attempts in the half and didn't score over the final 7:41 until the break.

But Minnesota can play some defense, too, and Wisconsin _ which fell to 14-1 when leading at halftime _ was ahead only 24-22 at the break because of its own shooting woes.

The coaching staffs on both teams wore tennis shoes with their suits in support of the Coaches vs. Cancer charity.