Trailing 22-16 with eight minutes left in the first half Sunday afternoon, the host Wolverines switched to a 2-3 zone defense and successfully stalled the Badgers offense. Michigan, meanwhile, kept right on knocking down shot after shot after shot—15 of its first 19 on the way to a gaudy 75 percent first-half clip.
The Wolverines pace slackened a bit, but their defense did the rest in a 71-59 victory, handing the Badgers their first back-to-back losses in more than a year.
Michigan improved to .500 in conference play (6-6 Big Ten, 15-8 overall) with its second straight win in the midst of a four-game homestand. Wisconsin is now 8-4 in the Big Ten, 17-6 overall. The Badgers fell to 2-4 in conference road games.
Sophomore Lester Abram paced the Wolverines attack with 17 points, followed by freshman Courtney Sims' 14. Abram and Sims each made 5 of 7 shots and Sims contributed three blocks defensively. Senior wing Bernard Robinson Jr. had a strong all-around game, with 11 points, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, and six assists.
Junior guard Devin Harris led all scorers with 18 points, but was limited to 5 of 20 shooting, indicative of the Badgers' offensive struggles.
Wisconsin was on its own gaudy pace through much of the first half, hitting 10 of its first 16 shots (63 percent), including three straight near the basket before a media timeout stopped play with 7:52 left in the opening session.
After the timeout, Michigan switched to the zone, which successfully clogged the lane and obliged Wisconsin to shoot from the outside. The Badgers found open looks on the perimeter but hit just 3 of 20 3-point shots, including 1-for-10 from Harris. Wisconsin made just two field goals in the final eight minutes of the first half and none in the final four. The Badgers proceeded to shoot just 28 percent in the second half.
Michigan's offense, on the other hand, kept cruising right along. The Wolverines used their athleticism to take advantage of transition opportunities off Badger misses and benefited from seven first-half Wisconsin turnovers.
When the dust settled, Michigan's torrid shooting had cooled to an only-slightly-less scoring 58 percent, but the damage was well accomplished by the time the Wolverines started missing shots.
Michigan went on a 22-5 run in seven minutes following the first-half media timeout, with offense coming from all over the court. Robinson Jr. hit two 3-point shots and Abram added another, while center Graham Brown contributed five points with work in the paint, including a three-point play with just under four minutes left in the half that gave Michigan the lead for good at 28-27.
Robinson's second 3-pointer and two Abram free throws capped the run, before Wisconsin's Harris was fouled on a 3-point attempt with five seconds left. He hit all three, closing the gap to 38-30 at halftime.
Wilkinson made it 38-32 just 19 seconds into the second half, but the Badgers would draw no closer.
Wisconsin, which lost 65-57 at Illinois Wednesday, had last lost consecutive games Jan. 8 and Jan. 11, 2003 at Michigan and at Illinois.