Defensive Wizardry

How did the Badgers win in a rout scoring the fewest amount of points they scored all season? The answers are simple: defense and Michael Flowers.

INDIANAPOLIS — Big Ten basketball isn't so pretty to watch at times, perhaps.

But this was the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team at its finest: playing suffocating defense and collecting just enough baskets to earn a relaxing victory in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal game Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Top-seeded UW's offense was anything but fluent – the Badgers had its lowest point total of the season – yet it was still an easy triumph over No. 9 seed Michigan thanks to a magnificent defensive effort by the Badgers and a porous shooting display from the Wolverines.

"We wanted to come out here, put our foot down and play Wisconsin basketball – and that's hard, in-your-face defense," said guard Michael Flowers, UW's defensive leader.

Eighth-ranked UW's 51-34 win is the lowest scoring game in Big Ten tournament history (85 points), besting Michigan's 49-40 win over Minnesota in last year's first round.

UW coach Bo Ryan couldn't be prouder, even if the offense wasn't always there.

"We had the energy, but we just didn't execute as well as I thought we could have," Ryan said. "(We) did some very good things defensively and helped pick each other up, and then hit some shots when we needed them."

Michigan's offense starts and ends with guard Manny Harris, who averaged 16.4 points per game this season and put up 26 points in UM's near-upset of Wisconsin on Jan. 22.

But UW senior guard Michael Flowers, just named to the Big Ten's all-Defensive squad, took the unseasoned freshman right out of his game, as Harris finished with a season-worst four points – none in the second half – on 1-of-12 shooting. Flowers added three steals.

"I pride myself on stopping my opponent and causing him havoc and disrupting the flow of his game," Flowers said. "Doing that ultimately benefits my team."

Michigan made just ten field goals and shot 20 percent, the lowest shooting mark for a UW opponent this season.

"Sometimes I got open looks and I just didn't knock them down," Harris said. "But overall, he played great defense. Mike was definitely responsible (for Harris' low point total)."

The Wolverines actually weren't so bad from three-point range (6-of-24), getting three three-pointers from forward Anthony Wright. It was inside the arc – four makes in 26 attempts for 15 percent – where UM was really, er, "offensive", and not in the positive sense.

"We try not to give up anything easy to the rim, that's what our defense is predicated on," said UW center Greg Stiemsma, who had two blocks. "So if guys are throwing in some threes here and there, we can live with it as long as it's not an open look. We'd rather have them take a forced three than an easy 10-footer (or) a layup."

Michigan did enough on the defensive end to make it a game – the Badgers' best individual output was 12 points from forward Joe Krabbenhoft, who averages 7.2 points and hadn't led UW in scoring all year.

But in the end, the Wolverines were far too sparse on the offensive end, and UW took advantage with a couple of first-half 10-0 runs to put away the game early.

After UW built a 26-18 lead, Brian Butch and Trevon Hughes, the Badgers' top two scorers, were each sent to the bench early in the second half with their third foul. Hughes finished with six points, while Butch had just one free throw in the game for his lowest scoring game this year.

So UW simply picked up the defensive tempo, holding UM to just 16 points in the second half on 18 percent shooting.

"Michigan stayed in it," Krabbenhoft said, "but our defense, which is what we've been hanging our hat on since the beginning of the year, took us all the way in this one."

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