As has been the theme in many of the games this season, the Wolverines started the contest in very strong fashion. After displaying little offensive cohesiveness the last few games, their early attack against the Badgers was more deliberate and efficient. There was increased focus on getting the ball into the post and big men Courtney Sims and Graham Brown answered with strong play underneath. There was also more penetration by the Wolverines backcourt players. Their efforts gave them an early lead at the 14:57 mark behind a jumper from Bernard Robinson Jr. While the Wolverines were getting offensive contributions from a number of sources (8 Michigan players scored in the first half), two Badger players kept the home team in the game with huge showings.
Wisconsin may have been a little surprised by their early struggles with the visitors. It didn’t help that star point guard Devin Harris didn’t score a single point in the first half. However, they were able to stay in the game because of the efforts of 6-8 235-lb. junior forward Mike Wilkinson and 6-5 walk-on guard Clayton Hanson. That Wilkinson provided scoring punch for the Badgers was to be expected. Even so, he played a practically flawless floor-game in the first ten minutes, going 6/7 from the field for 14 points and 3 rebounds. He eventually cooled down, but Hanson picked up right where he left off.
Hanson took everyone by surprise, (maybe even including his own team), with his long-range marksmanship down the stretch in the first half. After Michigan took it’s biggest lead of the game (27-22) at the 7 minute mark, Hanson answered with a jumper to cut the deficit back to 3. He then would nail three of the Badgers' final four baskets of the half, all from 3-point range, to send Wisconsin into the locker room up 35-34.
The Wolverines have struggled coming out of the half in a number of games this year, but early in the second stanza that seemed to not be in the forecast for this game. The Maize and Blue went on a 9-4 run coming out of the locker room to go up by 3, 43-39, at the 15:56 mark. Unfortunately, those aforementioned second half woes from past games would sneak into this one. Clayton Hanson nailed a 3-pointer to regain the Badger lead (46-43) with a little under 12 minutes to go. Amaker indicated that Hanson’s unexpected play was definitely one of Wisconsin’s offensive keys. “You always look at the 'star' players or the highly recognized players and it's usually someone else who puts the dagger through your heart and he certainly came in and made some big baskets,” Amaker said. “He had 11 points and seven minutes in the first half. I thought those were the big points for their team. And then he made that three to put them up in the second half. So we lost track of him, he's a very good shooter and he got it going tonight.”
Hanson’s triple was part of a 26-8 run over an eleven-minute stint to put the Badgers up 65-51 with 5 minutes left on the clock before rolling away with the 74-63 victory. Despite the disappointing loss, Amaker did find some positives. “I told our kids in the locker room just a minute ago that we found some good things,” Amaker said. “I was pleased. We made some steps forward in improving our basketball team tonight. One of those steps is that we value the basketball. I thought we executed fairly well in the offensive end and we've really been working on that. We just couldn't get a handle on stopping them defensively. Certainly in the second half we picked up so many fouls that they lived at the free throw line, and you can't play a team when you're down and putting them on the line and allowing them to score those easy baskets.”
On the game Michigan was led by Bernard Robinson Jr. with 13 points, 2 assists, and 7 rebounds and Dion Harris with 11 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds. Wisconsin was led by Wilkinson with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Clayton Hanson with 17 points, and Zach Morely with 12 points and 8 rebounds. For the full boxscore, click here.
The Wolverines are now 10-5 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten. Their next game
will be in Happy Valley on Saturday versus the Penn State Nittany Lions.