The Michigan Wolverines came to play, and they came to win. Michigan responded to several Wisconsin rallies, pulling away for a 77-70 victory.
The storyline was that Michigan hadn’t won in Madison since 1999, and remember Ben Brust’s half court heave last year?
Michigan was ready to squash that narrative from the opening tip. The first half featured Michigan slowly pushing its lead, while shooting over 60 percent from the field.
The game was a showcase for two of the top coaches in basketball, backed up by stats that indicate coaching discipline. Michigan had fouled the least amount of times per game in the NCAA, with the third least amount of turnovers. Wisconsin was second and first in those categories.
The game reflected the chess match, but it came down to Michigan’s players stepping up.
There was a nastiness to the victory, evidenced by Glenn Robinson III being scored on, then coming right back down the floor to stick a jumper. Jordan Morgan thumped his chest after he was on the right end of a charge call, then proved he wasn’t just talk with a nasty block on the other end.
Wisconsin, to their credit, didn’t fold. They kept distributing the ball, which would ensure four players scored in double digits. They rallied back after Michigan went up 10, and brought the score to 43-38 at halftime.
The second half was similar to the first. Michigan would go on a run, including ensuing possessions where they slowly increased their largest lead of the game from 11, to 12, to 13, eventually going up 15 with over ten minutes left.
From that point on, it was all Wisconsin. A jumper cut Michigan’s lead to 62-51 with 9:15 left, and the quiet Kohl Center slowly started to find some volume. The Badgers kept pouring it on, and pretty soon it was 66-63. John Beilein called a timeout with under four minutes left, as the crowd erupted into delirium.
The two teams traded buckets until Michigan was only up by one. It was at that point that Nik Stauskas stepped back, engaged his “three goggles” mode, and hit one from behind the arc with 48 seconds left.
After that, it was all over but the free throws. Stauskas calmly sank six in the final seconds to secure the victory for Michigan.
The Wolverines got an all around team effort on Saturday. The two-headed monster of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford combined for 12 points, 15 rebounds, and five blocks. Stauskas got some major help from what may be Caris LeVert’s best game of the season. The sophomore put up 20 points, along with seven rebounds and four assists. LeVert’s back to back three-pointers were the catalyst for an early Michigan run. Glenn Robinson III added 14 points for the Wolverines.
Michigan moves to 13-4, and 5-0 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin dropped its second straight game, falling to 16-2 and 3-2 in the Big Ten.
The win was Michigan’s 7th straight, and 5th straight in the Big Ten. This win is huge for Michigan’s tournament resume, and should help propel them closer to the Top 25.
Michigan has a tough two games coming up, with Iowa at the Crisler Center Wednesday, and Saturday at Michigan State. The Wolverines hope to come out with two more resume-building wins against Top 15 teams.
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