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February 10, 2012MINNEAPOLIS -- Try as they might to hide it, their excitement was easy to see.
It may have been just one of nine Big Ten road games, but for the Minnesota natives on Wisconsin's roster, Thursday night's 68-61 victory at Williams Arena was a big one.
"I haven't won here, so I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't enjoy that one a little bit," said Jordan Taylor, who grew up just a short drive to the south in Bloomington.
"It's a fun atmosphere. I've been playing here since I was nine years old, state games and all that. I love playing in Williams."
Taylor scored 27 points on the night, one shy of a season high for the senior guard. He tallied 14 of those points in the first half, while adding five crucial points -- all from the free throw line -- in overtime.
Most impressive was Taylor's 3-point shooting on the night, as he hit 5-of-9 from beyond the arc.
Wisconsin's two other starters from Minnesota -- Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz -- combined for 12 points and 11 rebounds on the night. Of the Badgers' 68 points, 39 were scored by Berggren, Bruesewitz and Taylor as they played close to home in front of a number of family and friends.
Afterward, they were all smiles.
Even a veteran Twin Cities reporter addressing Taylor by the wrong name couldn't keep him from enjoying the moment.
"Jason, nice to win at home, huh?"
"Say what?" Taylor responded.
"Nice to win here."
"Jordan," Taylor politely corrected him, with a big smile and a laugh, before answering the question.
That's the kind of day it was Thursday for Taylor and Wisconsin. Even though they almost let the game slip away with a nearly eight-minute scoring drought to end regulation, the Badgers could not help but enjoy coming away with their first win at The Barn since 2008.
Just before he spoke with reporters in a cramped hallway down a few steps from the Williams Arena elevated court, Bruesewitz was sitting, looking down at his phone.
"Sorry, Jon just texted me," he said.
Former UW and current Milwaukee Bucks forward Jon Leuer to be more specific. Who, like Bruesewitz, calls Minnesota home.
So, what did the message say?
Bruesewitz summed it up in two words: "Good win."
Unlike the current Badgers, Leuer already knew before Thursday what it was like to beat the Gophers in Minnesota. Leuer was a freshman during the 2007-08 season when UW last won at Williams Arena. Playing six minutes, Leuer made his only field goal attempt to add two points in Wisconsin's 63-47 victory that night.
Thanks in large part to Taylor's performance, the current set of Badgers also know what its like to win a Big Ten game in Minnesota.
Once he started fielding questions -- whether it was from beat reporters or on-camera for UWBadgers.com -- Bruesewitz was full of energy.
"Mikey, keep the answers short, we're leaving," Bo Ryan said before walking away toward the team bus.
Bruesewitz followed with his answer on what happened in the final eight minutes of regulation: "We got stagnant on offense, and the shots didn't go in."
As for how important it was to get into the bonus and shoot free throws, he was even shorter and more to the point.
"Huge. Knock down free throws, win the game."
The latter answer drew laughs from the small Wisconsin media contingent before Bruesewitz apologized and proceeded to elaborate on his answer.
A few minutes later, as he saw Gophers forward Chris Halvorsen walking away Bruesewitz called after his former high school teammate at Henry Sibley High School in St. Paul.
"Hey, your mom wants to take a picture of the two of us," Bruesewitz said with a smile.
It was clear, from his postgame demeanor and that smile, which never seemed to leave his face, that Bruesewitz -- like the rest of the Badgers -- enjoyed Thursday's win quite a bit.
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