By Genaro C. Armas
AP Sports Writer
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Frank Kaminsky scored 17 points, and No. 21 Wisconsin regained some of its frontcourt swagger in a 78-70 win Thursday night over Minnesota.
Fellow forward Nigel Hayes added 15 for the Badgers, who kept Minnesota in the game following late free-throw woes.
But Wisconsin (20-5, 7-5 Big Ten) benefited from a hot start up front. The Badgers are at their best active in the lane, and that was the case on both ends of the floor in building a 13-point lead against sloppy Minnesota (16-9, 5-7).
Outside shooting helped the Gophers hang around after Austin Hollins and Malik Smith hit 3s on back-to-back possessions to get to 73-68 with 55.2 seconds left.
Ben Brust finally sealed the win with two foul shots for an eight-point lead with 38 seconds left.
Brust finished with a team-high 20 points, while Sam Dekker added 10 points, seven rebounds and energy all over the court.
Hollins had 22 points, and Smith scored 14. Each hit four 3-pointers.
Fast-paced Minnesota was clearly the better transition team. The Gophers would have had much better luck if had a better hold of the ball.
Minnesota had eight turnovers alone in the first half — one more than they had the entire game in a 13-point win over Wisconsin last month.
The Gophers finished with 13 turnover on the night. That won’t cut it against Wisconsin, even after some late buckets helped get their shooting percentage up to 45 percent.
Conversely, Wisconsin seemed energized all night against their border rivals, with the frontcourt leading the charge.
A seven-point halftime lead stretched to double digits for much of the latter part of the second half. Dekker jumped high for an inbounds pass near midcourt, then drove to the basket for a left-handed layup and eight-point lead with about 13 minutes left.
Kaminsky went up and under around two defenders for another bucket before Dekker and Joey King went to the floor on Minnesota’s next possession scrambling for a loose ball. King ended up throwing the ball away for a turnover.
Later, Hollins beat Dekker by a step for a path to the lane, but the 6-foot-7 forward recovered to swat the shot away from behind toward the raucous “Grateful Red” student section with a 51-41 lead midway through the second half.
That defensive slump that led to a three-game losing streak for Wisconsin last month seems to be just a distant memory now.
Coach Bo Ryan’s team is also clicking on the other end by attacking the bucket while getting timely 3-pointers from Brust, who was 4 of 4 from long range.
Foul trouble also hurt Minnesota, with frontcourt players Eliot Eliason and King saddled with four apiece in the latter part of the second half. King and guard Austin Hollins ended up fouling out.
The Gophers are now 1-4 since beating then-No. 9 Wisconsin 81-68 in Minneapolis on Jan. 22.
They can place part of the blame on Hayes, a 6-foot-7 freshman, with athleticism and size that could also make him a good tight end.
Hayes scrambled for steals on two straight possessions — the second coming after he had turned the ball over the in the post.
He cruised in for an uncontested dunk that got the crowd going midway through a first half that ended with the Badgers up 35-28.