Michigan must grow defensively to make a run

Wisconsin's win over Michigan gives the Wolverines more to think about as they take six or seven days off before the NCAA tournament. Can Michigan fix things on the defensive end in time to make a run?

CHICAGO -- The wake up call was supposed to be the blowout loss in East Lansing. Then the shocking defeat at Penn State became a rallying cry. Now, if Michigan hopes to make a run in the NCAA tournament and regroup after giving up 51-second half points in a second round Big Ten tournament loss to Wisconsin, the third time better be the charm.

"Part of it is our defense, part of it is their great offense," said John Beilein afterwards. "But it was -- I was proud of our guys. We fought back and we had some chances to take the game back over and get back in front, we just couldn't do it."

Wisconsin was getting good looks in the first half but remained ice cold from the field, shooting just 17 percent through the first 20 minutes of play. In the second half, Michigan had no answer. The Badgers trio of Ryan Evans, Traevon Jackson, and Ben Brust proved to be too much for the Wolverines to handle, scoring from the outside, inside and at the free throw line amidst assignment issues and a lack of intensity on the defensive end out of Michigan.

Evans finished with 12 points, Brust had 14, and Jackson hit 16 including 7-of-8 from the free throw line.

Offensively, Michigan found it difficult to get good shots in the second half with Wisconsin sending defenders in waves and limiting the Wolverines offensive rebounds to just nine for the game. Without much of an opportunity to force turnovers -- Wisconsin coughed it up just nine times -- Michigan wasn't able to get out in transition, a huge part of the Wolverines success for most of the season.

"It's difficult," said Trey Burke. "Especially when we shot the way we shot as a team in the first half. We had some really good looks, just didn't fall."

Regardless of Michigan's shooting woes -- they shot 40% on 23-of-57 shooting -- the inability to get a stop defensively haunted the Wolverines. This time of year, especially in the Big Ten, those mental lapses on defense can't happen. After getting down 56-45, Wisconsin's largest lead of the game, Michigan turned the pressure up a notch to cut the Badger lead to two.

But the damage was done and Burke and the Wolverines know they'll be headed back to Ann Arbor for an entire off-season if this happens in the NCAA tournament.

"Just continuing to grow and continuing to grow as a team on defense," said Burke. "I think that today we didn't have the best offensive game, I think we got to really, got really a lot of good looks. So it wasn't really our offense, it was really just playing team defense and sticking together when we needed each other.

"We got to refocus, regroup. We can't continue to make the same mistakes, because sooner or later we'll be done. So hopefully we'll learn from this loss and get better."

Hardaway Jr. Update

After briefly leaving the game in the first half after landing on the foot of Mike Bruesewitz, Michigan junior Tim Hardaway Jr. returned quickly with a mild ankle sprain.

With a week off, Hardaway Jr. is expected to be 100 percent by tournament play.

The Michigan Insider Top Stories