Wilkinson stands tall

Wisconsin forward's early offensive outburst helps propel Badgers to 74-63 win

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Michigan may have had the Big Ten's leading shot blocker, 6-foot-11 Courtney Sims, inside, but that did not keep Wisconsin from turning to junior forward Mike Wilkinson early and often.

 

In two games prior to Wednesday, Wilkinson shot just 2-for-13, but he showed no signs of struggling against the Wolverines. Wilkinson was able to get the ball rolling for the Badgers on the offensive end, scoring all of his 14 first-half points within nine minutes and 45 seconds. He was a one man wrecking crew early, scoring 10 of the team's initial 12 points.

 

When it was all said and done, Wilkinson had racked up a game-high 18 points off of 8-for-12 shooting, plus 10 rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot. In addition, he tied a career high with eight field goals. It was the second time in four games that he finished with a double-double, having picked up 20 points and 10 rebounds in the Big Ten opener against Indiana.

 

The Badgers scored 32 points in the paint during the win over the Wolverines and a lot of this came thanks to Wilkinson. All of his points, minus his two from the charity stripe, came off of layups or jumpers from within the paint.

 

"Our game plan is always to try and establish something inside," Wilkinson said. "We got some good looks early and they were fortunate enough to fall down. They play a lot of pressure defense, we got some driving lanes and (the shots) just happened to get to the basket."

 

Besides Wilkinson getting out of his offensive slump, he also showed his show-stopping defense. Throughout the night he covered various big men but most of the time it came down to a battle on the inside between Wilkinson and Michigan's Sims. Wilkinson got the best of him holding Sims to nine points and four rebounds, though the freshman did tally three blocks.

 

Michigan led for most of the first half, but a strong shooting performance and solid defense helped Wisconsin build a 23-5 run in the second half.

 

"We made a commitment to ourselves that we were going to make them take tougher shots," Wilkinson said. "When we went on our run they didn't get as many good looks inside. There were more jump shots in their face and we did a good job of keeping people off the glass…we went down on the offensive end and got great looks at the basket."

 

Wilkinson did not leave the floor until one minute showed on the game clock, leaving to a standing ovation for he and the player who replaced him, guard Clayton Hanson, who scored a career high 17 points.

 

Though he enjoyed one of the best games of his career, Wilkinson was not concerned with point tallies.

 

"As long as we win it doesn't matter who scores on this team," Wilkinson said. "It doesn't matter who does anything, just as long as we get the job done."

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