WASHINGTON – Although they were the more rested team, second-seeded Wisconsin simply ran into a maize-and-blue buzz saw.
Behind 22 points from guard Derrick Walton Jr., eighth-seeded Michigan became the highest seed to win the Big Ten tournament championship following a 71-56 defeat of Wisconsin at the Verizon Center Sunday.
Bronson Koenig scored 15 points to lead Wisconsin (25-9), which fell to 3-4 in conference championship games
Michigan (24-11) showed no signs of tired legs in playing its fourth game in four days, making 12 of its first 18 shots and going 6-for-10 from 3-point range to build a 30-20 lead with 5:22 remaining. Three of the 3-pointers came on three straight possessions off the hands of Walton Jr.
The Wolverines shot 59.1 percent (13-for-22) and drained seven 3-pointers, but only led 33-32 at the break because Wisconsin’s offense was just as proficient. The Badgers shot 53.8 percent (14-for-26) and hit four 3-pointers, including Bronson Koenig extended his first-half point total to 13 with a buzzer beater.
Halftime was a different story. Michigan stayed hot out of the gate, and the Badgers’ first made field goal in the second half didn’t come until the 11:52 mark when the deficit hit 10 points. Even when Michigan cooled, the Wolverines still grew its lead to 11 points with 8:30 left with UW started 5-for-19 from the floor.
Wisconsin managed to close to lead to six after Vitto Brown’s 3-pointer and Zak Showalter’s coast-to-coast layup off a steal, but Zak Irvin hit an off-balanced 3-pointer with one second left on the shot clock to give the momentum back to the Wolverines.
Koenig scored 13 points in the first half but was held without a field goal on seven attempts after halftime. Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes eaach added 14 points, but the Badgers shot 26.7 percent (8-for-30 in the second half.
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