Barely Clawing By

After succumbing in the final minutes of the second half last Sunday, Wisconsin wouldn't allow it to happen twice in a row. Although it wasn't pretty in the final minutes, the Badgers avoided a late collapse and outlasted Michigan with a 60-55 victory.

MADISON – The killer instinct that the Badgers had demonstrated during their five-game winning streak had disappeared.

Wisconsin built a 12-point lead against sixth-ranked Michigan State one week ago only to flitter it away with poor shooting and sloppy play.

One week later, Wisconsin tried to give another one away, only its opponent wasn't in the mood for charity.

Despite sloppy play, missed free throws and prolonged scoring droughts, Wisconsin survived its must-win game by out lasting a feisty Michigan squad, 60-55, on Sunday.

"These are the games that in the past, we lost," said senior Marcus Landry, who chipped in with 13 points. "These are the games that got down to the wire and we didn't finish them out. It's important for us to finish out these close games down the stretch."

Junior guard Trevon Hughes paced Wisconsin (18-10, 9-7 Big Ten) with a game-high 19 points, as the Badgers moved into a fourth-place tie with Penn State in the Big Ten. Hughes scored 10 of his points in the second half, finishing 7-for-11 from the field and 3-for-4 from three-point range.

"He was opportunistic on his shots," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan. "He really didn't force anything."

Although the Badgers never trailed in the final minutes, Wisconsin was far from regaining its killer instinct. The Badgers didn't make a single field goal in the game's final 4:57 and committed two of their 11 turnovers down the stretch while holding a four-point lead or less.

"We got away from what we were doing in the first few minutes of the game," Landry said. "They were aggressive and they executed off of our bad decisions."

The Wolverines (18-12, 8-9 Big Ten), on the hand, were just as poor. After Manny Harris (15 points) made a driving layup to cut the score to 54-52 with 2:51 left, Michigan didn't make another bucket until C.J. Lee's uncontested layup with seven seconds remaining to cut the UW lead to three.

"We came out on the second half on a mission," said senior Joe Krabbenhoft, who finished with six points and 11 rebounds. "Those were 20 important minutes for our season, our careers, and I thought we did a really good job."

In the final 30 seconds and Michigan down three, junior DeShawn Sims, a 29 percent three-point shooter, barely drew iron on two three-point attempts. Even with the door open, Wisconsin couldn't fully close the door, going 6-for-10 on free throws in the final 1:33.

"We got one point per possession. There are worse things," Ryan said. "You need to shoot 75-80 percent, but you need to get at least a point on every possession to always continue to force the other team to get two scores instead of one."

Starting the game on an 8-0 run and leading by as many as nine early in the first half, the Badger offense hit the proverbial wall. Wisconsin missed nine of its next 13 shots, committed four turnovers during the stretch and allowed Michigan to make four of its seven three-point attempts to take a four point lead.

Michigan, who led 34-32 at halftime, went 5-for-11 from three-point range in the first half while the Badgers went 2-for-5, with its only two makes coming in the final 64 seconds.

Wisconsin, who entered the game with a 0-5 record when trailing at halftime this season, parlayed the positive vibes from those two perimeter buckets, starting the half 5-for-8 from the field that sparked a 13-2 run over the cold-shooting Wolverines.

"That's something you can not do, especially when you are on the road (is) get down and try to come back," said Michigan coach Jim Beilein, whose team started the second half shooting 1-for-12 from the floor. "You get down on one of Bo's teams, being down by five or seven is like being down by 15 to other people."

But just like the end of the first half, the Badgers' sloppiness allowed the Wolverines to creep back in the game, sloppy, as five turnovers in a nine-minute span allowed Michigan to cut the lead to two with 3:57 remaining.

From that point on, however, the Badger defense circled the wagons to ensure the Badgers would stay in the NCAA hunt.

"We're not blinded about all the (March Madness) talk," said Krabbenhoft. "We like it just as much as you guys and we're looking forward to the tournament. We know that we can really help ourselves like we did today."


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