With Koenig absent, Badgers fall on road to Wolverines

Koenig was sidelined with an injury and the Badgers couldn't get a win in his absence. 

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

For 136 games, Bronson Koenig’s cool handle and sharp shooting guided the Badgers through treacherous waters in the Big Ten. But Thursday night in Ann Arbor, Mich., all the senior guard could do was watch from the bench as his team went ice cold from beyond the arc.

The No. 11 Badgers (10-3 Big Ten, 21-5 overall) shot just 18.8 percent from 3-point range in their 58-64 road loss to the Michigan Wolverines (7-6, 17-9). The loss marks UW’s first losing streak of the season and forces them into a three-way tie atop the Big Ten standings with No. 23 Maryland and No. 16 Purdue.

Koenig was held out of the game due to a calf injury sustained in the team’s win over Penn State in late January. In the five games since then, he had made just 22.6 percent of his 3-point shots and 25.4 percent of his field goals, both well below his season and career averages.

With the star point guard sidelined, freshman guard D’Mitrik Trice was thrust into the starting lineup. And while he certainly looked far more aggressive and confident that he had previously—he led both teams with 15 field goal attempts—he never looked fully comfortable and hit just 13.3 percent of those shots.

With the game tied at 47 apiece and just under eight minutes to go in the second half, Derrick Walton Jr. skipped a pass over to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman in the right corner. He elevated and released a 3-pointer and was subsequently leveled by Trice on the closeout. The three fell, and Abdur-Rahkman completed the and-1 to give the Wolverines a four-point lead that they wouldn’t look back from.

Strangely enough, with Koenig sidelined, redshirt freshman sharpshooter Brevin Pritzl never stepped onto the court. Pritzl had seen his minutes increase dramatically over the past several games, but head coach Greg Gard didn’t call his number even as his team struggled to put the ball in the hoop from outside.

Redshirt sophomore forward Ethan Happ kept the Badgers afloat in the first half with 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting, more than half the team’s points in the first stanza. But in the second half, facing eternal double teams, Happ couldn’t find his way to the rim and recorded just four points on 2-of-4 shooting.

On the defensive end, Happ struggled to slow down Wolverine forward Moritz Wagner, who finished the night with a team-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including 3-of-6 from deep. He was the go-to guy for Michigan for much of the night and made up for a weak performance at the Kohl Center Jan. 17.

Next up, the Badgers have a now-massively important home matchup with the Terrapins. That game will have huge implications for the Big Ten regular season title, especially as the Boilermakers currently hold a tiebreaker over UW thanks to a 66-55 victory in early January.

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