The Day After| Wisconsin opens up conference play with a win against Minnesota.

The No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team opened up the new year with a 63-60 victory against Minnesota on Tuesday.

Forward Steven Crowl led the Badgers with 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Crowl is averaging over 11 points per game and eight rebounds per game so if he can consistently put up performances like this, that adds another low-post threat to the offense that was missing last year.

Guard Chucky Hepburn chipped in 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting, but that wasn’t the real story. Hepburn had five steals including this crucial one to seal the game.

Hepburn said after the game that he could choose to foul or steal the ball, and in his words, “I stole the ball.”

Wisconsin played most of the game without senior forward Tyler Wahl, who left Tuesday after stepping on the foot of a Minnesota player. Head coach Greg Gard offered no timetable for Wahl’s status for Saturday’s game against Illinois.

With Wahl’s injury, Wisconsin had to get more out of Carter Gilmore who played a career-high 30 minutes and scored two points, and Markus Ilver who played 11 minutes and scored three points.

Wisconsin also posted a season-high 13 steals and the team’s most since having 13 against Illinois on Feb. 27, 2021.

This was a gritty performance against a bad Minnesota team but Wisconsin will need to play its best game on Saturday as they face off against the unranked Illinois Fighting Illini. Wisconsin has lost four-straight to the Illini with their last victory coming on Feb. 18, 2019 as Wisconsin beat Illinois, 64-58.

The Big Ten Conference continues to be an unpredictable conference just a couple days into 2023. Indiana was the clear favorite to win the Big Ten before the season began, but some early losses have shot down the notion of the Hoosiers running away with the title.

Wisconsin is now in the perfect position to take advantage against some strong opponents and rack up some wins.

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