With two starters in street clothes and its best player sitting on the bench for extended periods of time with foul trouble, Wisconsin turned to one of the most unlikely Badger heroes—junior Clayton Hanson.
The non-scholarship walk-on guard entered Wednesday's game with Michigan with less than eight minutes left in the first half and lit a fire from beyond the 3-point line, knocking down 5 of 6 on his way to a career-high 17 points.
"This is fantastic," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "This is why sports are so intriguing."
Hanson's offensive outburst, combined with a similar contribution early in the game from forward Mike Wilkinson, sparked the Badgers to a 74-63 win over the Wolverines.
"They were very efficient," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. "The young man, Hanson, certainly was a big shot in the arm for their team."
Wisconsin (12-3 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) also benefited from a 23-5 second half run and held Michigan (10-5, 1-3) to 40 percent shooting in the second half.
"We battled and we competed and the dam broke and we couldn't make some shots," Amaker said.
Junior guard Devin Harris scored a season-low five points, but plenty of Badgers picked up the slack alongside Hanson. Wilkinson chipped in his second double-double in four games with game highs 18 points and 10 rebounds and guard Boo Wade contributed a career-high seven assists.
Led by the hot shooting of Hanson, Wilkinson and junior forward Zach Morley, who had 12 points, Wisconsin knocked down 48 percent of its shots against one of the stingiest defenses in the Big Ten.
Wilkinson hit his first four shots of the game on his way to scoring 14 of the first 18 Wisconsin points. As a result, Michigan changed to a zone defense that successfully clogged the paint until Hanson's shooting exhibition began.
"They play a lot of pressure defense," said Wilkinson, who hit 8 of 12 shots. "I got some driving lanes and (the shots) just happened to get to the basket…they tried to pack it in a little bit more with that zone and then Clay came in."
After entering the game Hanson knocked down 4 of 5 first-half shots, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. His last triple before halftime gave the Badgers a 35-34 lead with just over two minutes left before halftime, their first lead since it was 12-10 at the 16:41 mark.
Harris played only 21 minutes Wednesday due to foul trouble and sat more than 13 minutes of the first half after picking up his second foul with 12 and a half minutes left. The loss of Harris compounded the Badgers' depth problems with senior guard Freddie Owens out with a left foot injury and sophomore forward Alando Tucker out with a right foot injury.
"When you are faced with some adversity, a couple of guys go down, we've just got to be ready on the bench," Hanson said. "Like Coach (Ryan) says, you never know when you are going to be called on. As players, we just try to be ready for every situation."
In their collective absence, Hanson knocked down his first three shots in about four minutes, including two from beyond the arc.
"I think we all know, we've been around long enough to know sometimes when you have an injury teams can rise to the occasion," Amaker said. "Certainly when you have a championship-level program like coach Ryan's right now, you have players who are going to step forward and it's usually a player like (Hanson) that can do a lot of damage."
Michigan led 43-40 early in the second half, but Wisconsin scored eight unanswered points capped by a Wilkinson layup to take command.
A few minutes later, Wade hit a tough shot from 15 feet and followed with two free throws to make it 54-47. After a Daniel Horton free throw, the Badgers scored nine more unanswered capped by Hanson's fifth 3-point shot, giving Wisconsin a 63-48 lead. The Badgers took a 72-55 lead when Morley, who hit 5 of 7 shots, converted a great feed from Harris into a layup with one minute, 29 seconds left to play.
Score by half
Michigan - (Field goals-Free throws-Points) - Bernard Robinson (6-0-13), Dion Harris (3-3-11), Courtney Sims (4-1-9), Daniel Horton (3-2-8), Graham Brown (3-1-7), Lester Abram (2-0-4), J.C. Mathis (2-0-4), Brent Petway (2-0-4), John Andrews (1-0-3). Totals: 26-7-63.
Wisconsin - (Field goals-Free throws-Points) - Mike Wilkinson (8-2-18), Clayton Hanson (6-0-17), Zach Morley (5-2-12), Boo Wade (1-6-8), Andreas Helmigk (3-0-7), Dave Mader (2-1-5), Devin Harris (1-3-5), Ray Nixon (1-0-2). Totals: 27-14-74.
Three point goals - Michigan 4 (Harris 2, Andrews, Robinson), Wisconsin 6 (Hanson 5, Helmigk).
Rebounds - Michigan 29 (Robinson 7), Wisconsin 37 (Wilkinson 10).
Assists - Michigan 11 (Harris 4), Wisconsin 19 (Wade 7) Turnovers - Michigan 9 (Horton 3), Wisconsin 10 (four with 2).
Blocks - Michigan 4 (Sims 3), Wisconsin 5 (Mader 2) Steals - Michigan 2 (Robinson, Horton), Wisconsin 3 (Wade, Hanson, Mader) Fouls - Michigan 19, Wisconsin 12.
Points - in the paint: Michigan 34, Wisconsin 32 - Off turnovers: Michigan 14, Wisconsin 6 - Fast break: Michigan 0, Wisconsin 0 - Bench: Michigan 22, Wisconsin 24 - Second chance: Michigan 11, Wisconsin 12. Ties - 7. Lead changes - 6.