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Grier matches Badgers' second-half total himself

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota's formula for beating Wisconsin was
simple: consistent defense and a spectacular second half by Vince
Grier.

Grier scored 26 of his career-high 32 points after halftime to
lead the Gophers to a 60-50 victory over the 19th-ranked Badgers on
Saturday.

"I haven't had a flow like that in a while," said Grier, who
mirrored his teammates' offensive struggles in the first half by
missing five of seven shots.

Minnesota (16-6, 6-3 Big Ten) trailed by just two at the break,
though, because Wisconsin couldn't hit anything, either. Mike
Wilkinson, who had 14 points, opened the second half with a
3-pointer to cap a 19-6 run that lasted nearly 14 minutes and gave
the Badgers a 27-22 lead.

Then Grier completely took over the game, going 12-for-14 from
the field and matching Wisconsin's second-half total by himself.

"I like to feel out the opponent in the first half before I
show my offensive moves and what-not," said Grier, a junior
college transfer who leads the Gophers in scoring (17.0-point
average) and rebounding (5.4 average). "I noticed they were
sagging off of me. So we made some halftime adjustments."

Jumpers from the wing, pull-up shots off the drive, fast-break
layups -- he was essentially unstoppable. With his unorthodox
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.

"I thought Grier was a little selfish in the second half,"
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said, joking. "You can tell him I said
that: 'Hey, Vince, you're a little too selfish. You can't make 12
out of 14 field goals like that. Share the ball a little bit."

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

"We tried to get a few good spaces so he could kick it to us if
he needed to," said teammate Brent Lawson, who had eight points.
"But he definitely didn't need to."

Alando Tucker, returning from a two-game absence because of an
injury to his right foot, had 10 points for the Badgers (15-5,
6-3), who had won seven straight games against Minnesota.

Uncharacteristically shaky ballhandling by Wisconsin early in
the game let the Gophers -- who lead the conference in steals -- to
jump to a 15-5 lead.

"We didn't take care of the ball in the press," said Kammron
Taylor, who finished with seven points.

Bad shooting was also a big problem.

"I don't think we moved the ball well," said Taylor, who went
2-for-13 from the floor. Wisconsin shot 32.8 percent (19-for-58) as
a team.

Minnesota, picked by most to finish at or near the bottom of the
Big Ten, enhanced its chances of taking coach Dan Monson to the
NCAA tournament for the first time in his six seasons at the
school.

"Sometimes, you just need to get scalded," Ryan said.
"They're good. Their record tells the story."

Monson put out a call during the week for Gophers 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 Badgers supporters scattered throughout the arena.

Wisconsin allows a conference-best average of slightly fewer
than 60 points per game, and its half-court defense was stifling in
the first half. 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.

During the intermission, Monson encouraged the Gophers to stay
aggressive and keep shooting.

"What's the worst-case scenario? You're going to miss shots,"
Grier said. "So just shoot with confidence."