Wisconsin shot 49 percent (24-for-49) from the field, suggesting the offense played with efficiency. That wasn’t always the case, as the Badgers were sloppy at times with the ball and had a couple of broken plays in the first half. Despite the sloppiness, even when broken plays occurred, Wisconsin found a way to salvage the play and create points.
The Badgers finished the game with four players reaching double figures, as Bronson Koenig had a game-high 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field. Nigel Hayes was second with 16, Vitto Brown had 14 points and Ethan Happ rounded out the group with 12 points. Throw in Zak Showalter finishing with four points (2-for-4), all five of Wisconsin’s starters shot above 50 percent from the field.
Brown’s 14 points snapped a three game streak of scoring in single digits, and 12 of his points came from 3-point range. Brown finished 4-for-6 from three compared to going 1-for-3 from inside the arc.
Wisconsin’s offense started to turn around when the Badgers started converting their opportunities in the paint in the second half. After being outscored, 10-6, in the lane in the first half, Wisconsin finished with 26 points in the paint. What changed was Wisconsin got Happ and Hayes touches in the post to allow them to take advantage of Michigan’s undersized frontcourt. The two combined to score 14 points on 7-for-10 from the field in the second half.
Wisconsin’s lack of post touches in the first half were caused by the Badgers settling for perimeter jump shots. Half of Wisconsin’s 24 first-half attempts came from 3-point range and resulted in only four makes. Getting the ball inside consistently in the second half opened up the offense, as UW went 4-for-9 from 3-point range in the second half to finish 8-for-21 (38.1 percent) from the perimeter.
Wisconsin finished the game with 12 turnovers, leading to 14 Michigan points, and the miscues were committed between Happ (four), Showalter (three) and Khalil Iverson (two). Iverson was part of a Wisconsin bench contingent that scored 23 points in last week’s road win over Iowa, but the group of Iverson, Jordan Hill and Alex Illikainen finished with one point on 0-for-3 from the field. Redshirt senior Jordan Smith led the bench with two points on a pair of free throws in the final minute. Overall Wisconsin shot 12-for-15 (80 percent) from the line.
It was a tale of two halves for Wisconsin’s defense. After allowing Michigan to shoot 13-for-24 (54.2 percent) in the first half, Wisconsin was much better in the final 20 minutes, holding Michigan to 42.3 percent for a game total of 48 percent (24-for-50).
After allowing Zak Irvin to score 10 points in the first half, including Michigan’s first seven points, Wisconsin’s defense limited him to four points in the second half. More important was Wisconsin forced him into making five of Michigan’s 11 turnovers, the latter resulting in 12 Wisconsin points.
The second-half struggles weren’t limited to Irvin. After Derrick Walton Jr. and Duncan Robinson each scored seven points on a combined 6-for-11 from the field, the two only scored three points each after halftime, as Walton went 0-for-6 and Robinson went 1-for-2. Showalter deserves credit for the defense he played against Walton in making the junior work for every shot he took. Despite Walton finishing with 10 points, he went 3-for-13 from the field.
Scoring eight of his 10 points in the second half, Ricky Doyle was the only Wolverines player to score more than four points in the final 20 minutes. Going 4-for-4 in the second half and 5-for-5 in the game, Doyle did his damage down low, as the Badgers had trouble locating him at times and struggled blocking him off from the rim. He helped Michigan score 28 points in the paint, but the Badgers only allowed three offensive rebounds (a season-best for UW) and held the Wolverines – one of the country’s best 3-point shooting teams – to go only 5-for-13 from the perimeter. Robinson was the only Michigan player to make multiple threes (2-for-4).
Wisconsin finished its regular season at home on a far better note then it started off with against Western Illinois. And while it still wasn’t a perfectly played game, the Badgers made the plays needed in order to move into a tie for second place in the Big Ten.
One area that will go unnoticed is Wisconsin committing only 12 team fouls, as no player was whistled for more than three fouls. With Wisconsin being disciplined on defense, Michigan only managed to go 4-for-7 from the line.
With Wisconsin winning the rebounding battle, 33-to-20, the Badgers were able to extend offensive possessions at times with seven offensive rebounds (leading to eight points) and distributing 13 assists on 24 made field goals. With Hayes scoring eight points on 4-for-5 shooting in the second half, the junior’s production allowed him to find his open teammates when Michigan’s defense showed him extra attention on the block. All four of Hayes assists came in the second half, three of which went to Brown on a pair of 3-pointers and a dunk to put Wisconsin up by 12 with 56 seconds remaining.
Game MVP: Bronson Koenig. Koenig’s strong play continues. Setting a new school record with a 3-pointer in 40 straight games, Koenig finished 3-for-6 from three, his 15th game of making at least three 3-pointers, and scored 12 points in the second half. His production from the perimeter helped him open up driving lanes for himself and create opportunities in the paint for his teammates. Koenig finished with two assists, no turnovers and a number of hustle plays to keep possessions alive.