The University of Wisconsin men's basketball team has grown accustomed to blowing out opponents, particularly those from the Big Ten Conference recently.
But when Manny Harris and the young Michigan Wolverines strutted into the Kohl Center, they gave the Badgers – freshly minted with a No. 11 ranking, their highest of the season – everything they could handle.
And yet in a game that came down to the wire, somehow, someway, Wisconsin avoided that nasty upset bug that's been going around college basketball and staved off Big Blue.
A big-time three-pointer from Marcus Landry, some clutch free throws from sophomore Jason Bohannon and feisty all-around play from Michael Flowers and Joe Krabbenhoft helped the Badgers (16-2, 6-0 Big Ten) escape with a 64-61 victory over Michigan (5-14, 1-6) Tuesday night.
"We've been in this situation before," Krabbenhoft said. "We've just got to be calm out there, we can't get down on ourselves. We always feel like we're going to come out on top."
Landry, who tied with Flowers for the UW lead with 14 points, took a pass from Trevon Hughes and knocked down a three-pointer with 19.2 seconds remaining to give Wisconsin a 62-58 lead.
"I thought Trevon was going to come off the ball screen and shoot it, but I saw he kept driving," Landry said. "He had nowhere to go, so I came over, and just put it up there."
It wasn't Landry's most efficient game: 6-of-12, for a guy who has shot 58 percent this conference season. But the junior forward connected when it mattered most.
"I was kind of down, I couldn't get my shot off in the paint like I wanted to," Landry said. "I forgot about it, and got the opportunity to shoot the ball."
The Badgers then made a timely stop, and young Bohannon was called upon to hit free throws in a one-and-one situation to put the game away.
In front of a deathly silent Kohl Center crowd, Bohannon converted both shots, putting the game out of reach for Michigan and sending the Badger faithful into the wildest frenzy of the season.
"Without a doubt, we all know what kind of shooter Jason is, especially at the free-throw line," said Krabbenhoft, who added that Bohannon told him he wanted the ball on the inbound pass. "We were all confident in him, and I think he had the most confidence out there to knock those free throws down."
While Landry and Bohannon delivered the fireworks on the offensive end, Flowers and Krabbenhoft did the dirty work on the defensive end to preserve the victory. With the Wolverines controlling the ball down by two with 3:30 to go, Flowers stripped the ball from Jevohn Shepherd for one of his three steals, tied with Hughes for the game-high.
Then with Wisconsin leading by one with 50 seconds to go, Flowers tipped the ball away from Harris on a drive. There was a mad scramble for the loose ball and Krabbenhoft, who's made his name known for being a hustle player and doing the little things to win ball games, came up with it and immediately called timeout.
Landry nailed the dagger shot on the ensuing possession.
"You've got to be able to make plays on both ends," Krabbenhoft said. "When I see the ball just bouncing around, I feel like I can just get on my horse and try to go get it."
After Landry put UW up by four, Michigan's DeShawn Sims missed a three, and Krabbenhoft came up with the long rebound again, setting up Bohannon for his free throws to send the Wolverines packing.
"Glad he's on our side," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "Just the way he plays, how hard he plays and what he brings all the time."
Michigan had several opportunities to take the lead, but Wisconsin never trailed in the second half.
"It's very important to stay on top," Landry said. "If you do all the right things, you'll end up on top, and that was very important to keep the lead."
Harris, making quite a name for himself as a high-scoring freshman (15.9 points per game, fifth best in the Big Ten) had a stellar effort with 26 points on 11-for-19 shooting.
But as Michigan coach John Beilein said, experience prevailed over raw youth.
"When (the Badgers) are in situations like that, they are more comfortable (shooting) it," Beilein said. "They've have had guys step up and make big shots."