Wisconsin Badgers fall apart in second half as Michigan Wolverines cap improbable run with Big Ten title

Even after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half, senior guard Bronson Koenig helped carry Wisconsin down the stretch in its 65-62 win over Villanova.

Image By: Sebastian van Bastelaer

WASHINGTON — It was a long night on the offensive end for the No. 24 Badgers (12-6 Big Ten, 25-9 overall) Sunday at the Verizon Center as they couldn’t string enough successful possessions together to knock off Michigan (10-8, 24-11) 71-56 and claim the Big Ten Tournament crown.

Wisconsin fell behind early, 30-20, but clawed back into the game to close the half. UW ended the first period on a 12-3 run, spurred by three baskets from redshirt sophomore forward Ethan Happ. Senior Bronson Koenig capped the half with a tough pull-up 3-pointer at the buzzer over the outstretched arm of Zak Irvin.

The Badgers would go into the locker room trailing by just a single point, 33-32, but came out hopelessly flat to open the second. Over the course of the first four minutes, UW turned the ball over three times and went 0-for-4 from the floor as Michigan stretched its lead from one point to 10.

Though Zak Showalter played sound defense against Michigan’s Derrick Walton, the Wolverines were able to switch the redshirt senior off of their top scorer too often for the individual matchup to matter. Walton finished the game with 22 points on 6-of-15 shooting and a lights-out 4-of-9 from 3-point range.

Midway through the second half, the Badgers again climbed back from a deficit to make things interesting. Senior forward Vitto Brown buried a short jump shot and a three before Showalter picked Irvin’s pocket and went coast-to-coast for a layup to cut the Wolverine lead to just six.

From there on out it was all Michigan, as Irvin and Duncan Robinson took turns burying 3-pointers to sink UW. Ultimately, it was DJ Wilson who found Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman on a fastbreak for an uncontested dunk that stuck the knife in the Badgers’ hearts.

Irvin matched Walton’s night with an efficient performance of his own, finishing with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and hit a myriad of timely shots to stave off any inkling of a UW run. Fittingly, Irvin and Walton closed the game with a breakaway dunk and layup, respectively, to steal a Big Ten Tournament title despite coming in as the No. 8 seed.

Happ struggled to convert layups all night, registering 14 points on just 6-of-16 shooting and failed to earn even a single trip to the free-throw line. Koenig was the only Badger to find a rhythm on the offensive end of the court, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting and 3-of-6 from downtown.

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