After poor shooting hurt the Badgers in two narrow home losses, the points were even harder to come by at Crisler Arena, bad news against a Michigan team that has made it a habit of putting the ball into the basket.
After back-to-back shooting clunkers, the Badgers hit a new low Sunday afternoon, shooting a season-worse 31.4 percent in an ugly 59-41 defeat to No.16 Michigan.
Michigan – notorious of turning on the jets in the second half – went on an 18-7 run the first 10 minutes after halftime to push the lead to 17 and lead by as many 19 points. Wisconsin – unseasonably cold over the last two games – couldn't buy a shot in scoring the fewest points in a regular season game under Bo Ryan and the second fewest in school history.
As a result, the Badgers are 1-3 in conference for the first time since 2000-01, the season before Ryan arrived.
"We made them make tough shots," said Michigan coach John Beilein, who got his first career win against Ryan in 10 meetings. "They weren't shooting the ball coming in here well, but we didn't give them a lot of open looks. I am really happy with our defense because our defense can be part of our offense."
Michigan (13-3, 3-1) had three players in double figures and got a game-high 17 points from sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr., who scored 12 of his points after halftime. Hardaway Jr. has scored in double figures in nine games this season, and scored the Wolverines' first five points of the second half to push the lead to 10. Wisconsin never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
Jordan Taylor led Wisconsin with 12 points, but shot 5-of-15 from the field (2-of-7 from three-point range) and scored eight of his points after the outcome was clearly decided with 10 minutes to go. He also finished with one assist and three turnovers, and has just two assists to seven turnovers in the last two games.
"We have to continue to battle and see if other guys can step up," said UW associate coach Greg Gard. "It can't all be on Jordan's shoulders. We have to have other guys step up and be able to contribute."
Taylor wasn't the only Wisconsin player having issues. Mike Bruesewtiz, Ben Brust and Ryan Evans were the next highest scorers, managing just six points, Jared Berggren shot 1-of-6 from the field (three points) and Rob Wilson went 0-for-4 from the floor.
Not only could the Badgers not shoot, Wisconsin was out hustled, getting out rebounded 34-to-27, turned the ball over 12 times and were out shot 17-2 from the free throw line. It was the 14th game this season that Michigan had 30-or-more rebounds.
"For the most part, we did a decent job on them defensively," said Gard, as the Badgers held Michigan to 39.6 percent (19-of-48) shooting. "We gave them too many possessions and second chances when we couldn't secure rebounds, especially when they were trying to milk the clock in the last eight minutes or so."
Wisconsin was cold from the start - starting 1-of-7 from the field, including 0-of-2 from the free throw line and two turnovers – and saw Michigan jump out to a 10-2 lead.
But after scoring two points in the first seven minutes, Wisconsin scored 10 points in two minutes, thanks in large part to Bruesewitz. The junior hit a three pointer to cut the lead to three and assisted on a Brust three-pointer – who was 1-of-13 from three in UW's last two games – after he outrebounded three Michigan players twice for an offensive rebound.
Taylor followed with a steal and layup to give Wisconsin a 12-10 lead, and force Michigan to call timeout to stifle a 10-0 run. It apparently worked. After Taylor hit a jumper at the 9:06 mark, giving UW a 14-12 lead, Wisconsin missed 10 of its last 12 shots, had two more turnovers and even a three-point air ball from Taylor. UW trailed 25-19 at halftime and never came close to leading again.
Wisconsin shot 30.8 percent in the first half and missed its first seven shots of the second half. Take away the 10 points in 1:39 Wisconsin had on its mini sport, the Badgers registered only nine points in 23:19 before Bruesewitz hit a three-pointer.
"To have to play from that far behind is not a strength of ours," said Gard. "We have to do things better in the first half where we don't put ourselves in that type of hole."