Up 47-45 with 10:47 remaining, Wisconsin’s poor shooting once again reared its ugly head as the Badgers closed the game shooting 2-for-18 (11.1 percent) from the field. In fact, over the last 10 minutes of the game, the Badgers’ best offense was getting to the free throw line. UW went 6-for-6 from the line and made only five points on its two field goal makes.
Overall Wisconsin shot 23-for-60 (38.3 percent) and a lowly 18.8 percent (3-for-16) from 3-point range. Ethan Happ led Wisconsin with 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting from the field but 18 of his points came in the first half. Happ made a living in the paint in the first half, as Wisconsin registered 22 of its 31 points in the paint in the first half. But foul trouble and doubling Happ in the second prevented him from having the same kind of success down low. Khalil Iverson was the other Badger to reach double figures with 10 points but eight of his 10 points came in the first half.
D'Mitrik Trice got the start in the place of the injured Bronson Koenig (left calf) and finished 2-for-15 from the field and nine points. Despite Trice’s shooting struggles, he managed five rebounds, four assists to two turnovers and two steals. Zak Showalter had eight points and was active getting into the lane and drawing fouls. Nigel Hayes was a nonfactor with six points on only seven shots, and Vitto Brown went scoreless in a Big Ten game for the second time.
Wisconsin’s 11 turnovers gave them double-digit turnovers for the seventh straight game, leading to 17 points for the Wolverines. Happ led Wisconsin with three turnovers, following closely behind by Trice and Hayes with two each.
With the paint being better defended in the second half, Wisconsin’s ability to consistently collect off of its missed shots was limited. Wisconsin finished with 11 offensive rebounds that turned into 10 second-chance points. Showalter led Wisconsin with four offensive rebounds.
Having success defensively meant the Badgers would have to slow Derrick Walton, who entered the game with five straight 20-point performances. Showalter did his part holding him to five points on 1-for-8, but Walton’s teammates picked up the scoring slack with three players in double figures.
Michigan was led by Moritz Wagner’s 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting, including 3-for 6 from 3-point range. Zak Irvin entered the game shooting 20.5 percent (8-for-39) over the previous five games but dropped 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was third with 12 points. Overall Michigan finished the game 23-for-50 (46 percent) from the field and 9-for-23 (39.1 percent) from three.
Although Showalter contained Walton from having an individual scoring impact, the senior was able to effectively distribute the ball with a team-high eight assists. Walton’s ability to distribute allowed Michigan at times to get clean looks off and create spacing against Wisconsin’s defense. Michigan finished the game with 15 assists on its 23 made field goals.
Wisconsin’s defense found a way to disrupt Michigan’s offensive rhythm in the first half, forcing them into seven turnovers, but that pressure couldn’t be sustained in the second half. Forcing a total of 10 turnovers, half coming on steals, Wisconsin was able to convert Michigan’s mistakes into 15 points.
Wisconsin did do a good job of consistently holding Michigan to one shot per offensive possession, as the Wolverines faced constant low post pressure and box outs. Michigan had only six offensive rebounds, two second-chance points and 24 points in the paint.
Wisconsin was in a position to win and complete the season sweep but the poor shooting – a reoccurring theme - finally caught up them. Despite losing their lead to Michigan with 7:51, the Badgers were able to stay within striking distance. Jordan Hill was able to cut Michigan’s lead to 54-50 with 6:23 to go on his only make (a 3-pointer), but the Badgers’ next made field goal didn’t come until nine seconds remained. Michigan went 7-for-15 from the field over the last 10 minutes of the game, allowing the hosts to take control of the game.
Happ and Iverson were big in the first half and were the main reason UW led 31-30 at halftime. The two combined to score 26 of Wisconsin’s 31 points on 12-for-14 shooting. But like Wisconsin’s offense, they couldn’t carry over the offensive success in the second half and only attempted a combined six field goals. Overall Happ and Iverson finished a combined 15-for-20 (75 percent) from the field compared to their teammates, which went 8-for-40 (20 percent). Five different players for Wisconsin made at least two field goals, but Wisconsin didn’t receive anywhere near the same kind of balanced Michigan did.
Wisconsin controlled the game in the first half with the ability to efficiently pass the ball and find the open teammate. Happ and Trice each registered four assists, as Wisconsin finished the first half with nine assists on 14 made field goals. That changed in the second half with only three assists on nine made field goals and six UW turnovers. That inability to create saw the Badgers’ shooting percentage drop from 46.6 percent in the first half to 30 percent in the second half.
Game MVP: Ethan Happ. Despite a lackluster second half filled with foul trouble and only four shot attempts, Happ was excellent for Wisconsin in the first half, scoring 18 of UW’s 31 points and registering four assists that led to another nine points. When on the court, Happ was active from start to finish and led the team with six assists, tied for the team lead with two steals, second with six rebounds and had a block.