Wisconsin has the Big Ten’s best road record during Bo Ryan’s tenure thanks to performances like this.
The Badgers seized Sunday’s nationally televised matinee by the first television timeout. After missing its first shot, Wisconsin made it next six attempts from the field and jumped out to an early ten point lead. The Badgers never looked back.
While Wisconsin executed with ruthless precision in the first half, Michigan made uncharacteristic mistakes. The Wolverines gave the ball away seven times in 28 possessions and allowed the Badgers to rebound 42% of their misses in the first frame. Wisconsin dominated the first frame, extending its lead to as much as 18 points in the first half, and the Wolverines fell too far behind to ever recover.
Michigan played better in the second half, mostly thanks to a heroic 25 point effort from Caris LeVert, and managed to cut the lead to a single possession with 6:16 to play. But the Wolverines could never string together quite enough plays to tie or take the lead. Eventually Frank Kaminsky put the game away, scoring 11 of 14 points during a 14-4 Badger run after Michigan had sliced the deficit to 3 points.
Michigan’s offense got off to a sleepy start, but it was the Wolverine defense that was the problem. Michigan surrendered 1.24 points per possession to the Badgers – its second worst defensive performance of the season. Wisconsin turned the ball over just twice in 60 possessions and hit big shot after big shot.
Michigan managed to fix its problems on the defensive glass in the second half – Wisconsin rebounded 42% of its misses in the first and 14% of its misses in the second – but it never had an answer for Frank Kaminsky, who scored 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting. The Badgers controlled the tempo of the game and shot 46% on twos and 41% on threes for a solid .509 effective field goal percentage.
Michigan’s offense managed just .69 points per possession in the first half, but bounced back with 1.31 points per possession in the second. It was the second straight game where the Wolverine offense could generate very little in the first half, but exploded in the second. The first half numbers were ugly as the Wolverines had seven turnovers to zero assists and shot just 33% on twos and 29% on threes.
There was no secret to Wisconsin’s defense success – the Badgers maintained the same strategy as the first meeting. Wisconsin deployed the same soft hedge, but did a better job of fighting over ball screens and playing physically against Michigan’s shooters. In the first meeting, Michigan knocked down a bunch of midrange jumpers. This time around, many of those shots went rimming out.
Other than Caris LeVert, Michigan struggled to shoot from anywhere on the floor. Wolverines other than LeVet were just 1-of-10 from 3-point range, with the lone make coming after the game was decided. Inside the arc, Michigan shot just 41% as it struggled to deal with Wisconsin’s physicality and size around the rim.
Michigan was playing with a bit of house money thanks to its quality work on the road, but that good will is gone after this loss. Michigan has played very poorly for three first halves in a row and that’s a scary habit as the calendar moves along. The ability to play from behind is nice – Florida State, Ohio State, etc. – but consistently falling behind is a recipe for disaster.
Michigan State lost to Nebraska at home – after the Michigan score was announced on the Breslin PA system when the teams took the floor – so the Wolverines are tied for first in the league yet again. Michigan has a week off to prep for the Spartans, who travel to Ann Arbor on Sunday for a game that will determine the title favorite with two weeks to play.
- Caris LeVert: As he’s done in many Michigan losses this season, LeVert carried the Michigan offense. He finished with 25 points in a lethally efficient 7-of-13 shooting performance.. He was 5-of-6 from long distance, but the one miss was costly as it rimmed out with Michigan trailing by five. LeVert’s two-game averages against Wisconsin were ridiculous this season: 22.5 points and shot 88.9 percent (8 of 9) from 3-point range. Like his teammates, he struggled inside the arc where he was just 2-of-6.
- Nik Stauskas: Michigan needs to get Stauskas going. Stausaks has dealt with an array of different junk defenses over the last couple weeks, but Wisconsin stuck to its base look today. That’s the same look that Stauskas torched for 23 points in Madison. He’s not going to be superhuman every time out, but he’s lost some confidence. The jump shots will start falling, but Stauskas’s indecision in the passing game is leading to turnovers that he just didn’t make in the earlier portion of the season.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson had a lot of comfort with the 17 foot jumper and finished with 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 32 minutes. That’s one of his favorite shots and it’s one that the Badgers pretty much give away, so it was nice to see him knocking them down.
- Derrick Walton: Walton regressed to the freshman mean: 0 points on 0-of-6 shooting with 1 assist to 2 turnovers. Walton is the one option on the floor for Michigan without the size to rise and fire for those 17 footer jumpers and he struggled to finish at the rim against Wisconsin’s size. Michigan’s guards talked a lot about getting north-and-south against Wisconsin instead of going side-to-side and that’s something that Walton struggles with at times.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan made a critical and-one during Michigan’s second half run, but there’s no hiding the fact that he really struggled against Kaminsky. He did a great job of forcing Kaminsky to catch the ball away from the basket, but Kaminsky was strong with the ball once he caught it.
- Jon Horford: I thought Horford gave Michigan a nice lift and was surprised to see he only registered 9 minutes in the box score. Horford finished with 3 points and 6 rebounds (2 offensive) but only took one shot.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin was 10 for his last 17 from three point range before today’s 1-of-5 showing. Irvin just couldn’t find his range and that hurt the Michigan offense which has come to rely on his timely shooting off the bench.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht has provided a jumpstart in a number of home games this year, but never really could today. He finished with just two points on a pair of free throws.