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Tuesday's Border Battle will be a showcase of Minnesota talent on both sides, but former AAU teammates Steven Crowl and Dawson Garcia are entering their matchup playing their best basketball for the Gophers and Badgers.
In Minnesota's 2020 class, Garcia and Crowl were standouts at Prior Lake and Eastview, respectively. They were members of D1 Minnesota's 17U team before their senior year.
A 6-11 transfer from North Carolina, Garcia's averaging 16.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 blocks and shooting 51% in his last four games, which included 18 points in the U's last game on Dec. 22 against Chicago State.
Crowl, a 7-foot junior center for the Badgers, is coming off his career-high with 25 points in last week's win against Western Michigan. He scored in double figures in four straight games for the first time in his career.
"It for sure felt good for me," Crowl said about the performance, tying his career high with 3-for-5 shooting from three-point range. "I had been struggling from beyond the arc, so that was the biggest thing to see a couple threes go down."
Last season, the Badgers defeated the Gophers 68-67 at Williams Arena with Crowl leading the way with 20 points and seven rebounds. You could tell playing the Gophers back in his home state for the first time meant a little more to him.
"I kind of grew up a Gophers fans to be honest," Crowl told reporters in Madison this week. "But once I got here that all went out the window. And no love there anymore."
Crowl and Tyler Wahl, who also played for D1 Minnesota with Gophers forward Jamison Battle in the 2019 class, are the only two Minnesotans on Wisconsin's team this season. Wahl, a former Lakeville North standout, leads UW with 14.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
Garcia, who started his college career at Marquette and won in Madison in 2020, leads the Gophers in scoring (14.5) and rebounding (5.6).
For the first time in several years, the Gophers have more Minnesota natives on their roster than their rival with eight scholarship players, including Battle, Braeden Carrington, Joshua Ola-Joseph, Pharrel Payne, Treyton Thompson, Will Ramberg and Parker Fox (injured).
Time: 8 p.m. CT, Tuesday. Where: Kohl Center. Line: Gophers 12-point underdogs. Series: Minnesota leads 101-98, including 68-67 loss at home on Feb. 23, 2022. TV: Big Ten Network. Online/Live video: BTN-plus. Radio: KFAN-100.3-AM
MINNESOTA GOPHERS (6-6, 0-2 BIG TEN)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Ta'Lon Cooper 6-4 195 Jr. 9.9
G – Taurus Samuels 6-1 195 Sr. 2.1
F – Jamison Battle 6-7 220 Jr. 12.9
F – Joshua Ola-Joseph 6-7 215 Fr. 6.9
F – Dawson Garcia 6-11 230 So. 14.3
Key reserves – Pharrel Payne, F/C, 6-9, Fr., 7.8 ppg; Braeden Carrington, G, 6-4, Fr., 7.8 ppg; Jaden Henley, G, 6-7, Fr., 4.6 ppg; Treyton Thompson, C, 7-0, So., 2.0 ppg.
Coach: Ben Johnson 19-23 career (2nd season)
Notable: The Gophers announced 6-8 freshman forward Kadyn Betts will redshirt the 2022-23 season after reclassifying and joining the team early this year. Betts will be part of a highly touted 2023 class that was signed Nov. 9, including five-star center Dennis Evans III and four-star guard Cameron Christie. … Junior forward Jamison Battle missed the first four games of the season after recovering from foot surgery. The All-Big Ten preseason selection made his season debut Nov. 21 vs. Cal Baptist in the SoCal Challenge in California. ... Freshman guard Braeden Carrington, who won Minnesota Mr. Basketball and a state title last season at Park Center, made his season debut Nov. 14 against DePaul after being out with an ankle sprain. ... The Gophers have a four-game losing streak against the Badgers since their last win in the series 70-52 at home in 2020. Their last win in Madison was 59-52 on Jan. 3, 2019.
WISCONSIN BADGERS (10-2, 2-0)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Chucky Hepburn 6-2 205 Soph. 11.9
G – Jordan Davis 6-4 200 Jr. 7.3
G – Max Klesmit 6-3 200 Jr. 6.7
F – Tyler Wahl 6-9 225 Sr. 14.1
C – Steven Crowl 7-0 245 Jr. 11.5
Reserves – Connor Essegian, G, 6-4, Fr., 10.4 ppg; Carter Gilmore, F, 6-7, Jr., 3.2 ppg; Kamari McGee, G, 6-0, Soph., 0.7 ppg.
Coach: Greg Gard 154-80 (8th season)
Notable: The Badgers have won the Big Ten regular season title in two of the last three seasons (2020 and 2022), but they lost All-American and Big Ten player of the year Johnny Davis to the NBA and veteran Brad Davison to graduation. No wonder the Badgers were picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten preseason media poll. Sound familiar? Gard's team was picked 10th in 2021-22, but Wisconsin still finished in first place. The Badgers, who nearly upset Kansas in a 69-68 overtime defeat in November, opened Big Ten play 2-0 this season with victories against Maryland and Iowa. … Lakeville North senior forward Nolan Winter, the son of ex-Gophers big man Trevor Winter, signed to play for Wisconsin next season.
Fuller's score prediction: Wisconsin 68, Gophers 60.