Things could not have gone any better for the Michigan Wolverines at the start of their road contest versus the #2 ranked Wisconsin Badgers Wednesday night. Prior to the game Tommy Amaker stressed to his club the importance of pressuring the opposition on both ends of the floor, and his words seemed to hit home early on.
On the Wolverines first possession they attempted three shots and grabbed three offensive rebounds before Lester Abram converted a lay-up nearly a minute into the game. That aggressiveness continued on the next three possessions as Dion Harris knocked down a triple and a lay-up and Ron Coleman nailed a jumper to push the lead to 9-0. That's when the combination of carelessness and an unfriendly whistle combined to bring Amaker's bunch back down to earth.
A Brent Petway foul sent Alando Tucker to the line at the 17:03 mark and the Naismith Award candidate split the pair to finally get the Badgers on the board. On the other end of the floor, Michigan turned the ball over on its next three possessions (two committed by Harris and one by Abram) to give the home team more life. Three personal fouls and another turnover in the subsequent moments helped spark a 9-0 Wisconsin run in a three-and-a-half minute span to knot the score with 13:36 to go.
Abram finally ended a five-and-a-half minute scoreless period when he nailed a jumper to give the Wolverines the lead again. He also drew two quick fouls on Tucker in just over a minute, sending the Badger star to the bench at the 11:59 mark. Those were the first two foul calls on the home team after Michigan had been whistled five times in the opening five minutes. That, however, did little to curb the Wisconsin's offensive efficiency. The Badgers knifed to the basket to take advantage of Michigan's aggressiveness, and that penetration resulted in lay-ups or fouls. Still, the Wolverines managed to keep pace by getting production from their big men. The two teams played to a 19-19 stalemate with 6:44 to go, but things wouldn't stay that way for long.
Three more turnovers, the loss of Dion Harris to his second foul, and four additional Michigan fouls sparked an 11-1 Wisconsin run that gave the Badgers their first double digit lead of the game, (30-20). The Wolverines fought back, though, thanks the interior play of Courtney Sims. The senior began handling the crisp entry passes delivered to him and he converted four of his nine first half points down the stretch to help visitors cut the deficit under 10. The Wolverines had a chance to cut it even further right before the intermission when an Ekpe Udoh block led to a cast to coast attempt by Jerret Smith. The shot was blocked, however, and the Wolverines went into the break down 33-26.
The Badgers came out of the halftime locker room firing and it was Tucker that led the way. The senior forward converted his first two attempts of the half to spark an 11-5 run that made the score 46-31 with 14:19 to go, prompting Amaker to call a timeout.
With the frustration from four more foul calls during the Wisconsin run beginning to show on his players' faces, Michigan's sixth year headman tried to get his club refocused. Unfortunately for him the brief chat didn't have the desired effect. The frustration with the referees boiled over a little over a minute later when Brent Petway was whistled for an extremely questionable foul call at a time when most observers thought the Badgers were going to be whistled for traveling. Petway's reaction to being called for his fourth personal despite hardly even touching the man he was guarding resulted in a technical foul call. That also gave him his fifth foul and eliminated him from the game.
"We definitely got frustrated and it resulted in us losing our composure with Brent getting a technical foul and having the antics and the body language that he had," Amaker said. "I think the officials were frustrated as well. But it was no question that the game was a little disjointed -- the game was physical -- and it was kind of chaotic at times where teams are whacking on each other trying to get to the foul line and making those physical kinds of plays. But such is life in the Big Ten."
Two technical foul free throws pushed the Badger lead to 16, (49-33), and Bo Ryan's club never looked back. The margin ballooned to as many 24 before the home team held on for the 71-58 victory.
Courtney Sims led the way for the Wolverines with 16 points and four rebounds, but had seven of Michigan's 19 turnovers. Alando Tucker and Brian Butch paced the Badgers with 16 points apiece. For more on the game click the following links: Boxscore, Notes & Quotes.
The Wolverines (16-5, 4-2) will look to resume their winning ways Saturday when they take on the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington. Tip-off is scheduled for noon and with air on ESPN.