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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, June 13, 2024
Ben Brust

Men's Basketball: Badgers prepare for rematch with Michigan

Wisconsin arguably benefited the most from the Big Ten’s single-play cycling schedule this season, drawing both Indiana and Michigan only once during the regular season slate.

With Nebraska’s addition to the conference last season, everyone in the Big Ten matches up with seven league opponents twice per season and plays the other four teams one time.

Wisconsin certainly made the most of their matchups with the Hoosiers and Wolverines. Wisconsin beat IU at Assembly Hall and knocked off Michigan in what was perhaps college basketball’s best game this season, with junior guard Ben Brust’s half-court heave as time expired sending the contest into overtime. Wisconsin went on to edge Michigan, 65-62, in the extra five-minute frame.

The Badgers (12-6 Big Ten, 21-10 overall) will meet the Wolverines (12-6, 26-6) once again Friday at the United Center in Chicago for a quarterfinal game in the Big Ten tournament.

While UW earned a first-round bye, Michigan had to defeat the Nittany Lions Thursday to set up a rematch with the Badgers. The Wolverines held just a two-point edge over No. 12-seeded Penn State at halftime, but they went on to cruise to a 83-66 win.

Wisconsin would have met the Nittany Lions if Michigan hadn’t blown a five-point lead in the final minute of its showdown with Indiana Sunday, but the Wolverines’ loss gave UW the  first-round bye.

“I’ll definitely take advantage of [the first-round bye],” said sophomore guard Traevon Jackson. “That’s an extra day of rest, an extra day of preparation and getting shots up.”

While Brust said UW will be prepared for tip-off Friday, he also acknowledged Michigan could benefit from having a game under their belt at the United Center. The Wolverines could gain momentum or develop fatigue from the extra 40 minutes of basketball.

“It could go either way, to be honest,” Brust said. “You never know, and that’s how it is in the season—teams come off wins or come off losses, so you’ve got to be ready at all times for anything.”

One would think a significant portion of Wisconsin’s preparation, especially for Jackson, would be spent focusing on Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke, who was named the Big Ten’s Player of the Year this week.

Jackson, who grew up in Westerville, Ohio, and played with Burke, said the conference’s top player is especially difficult to scout. Because of Burke’s ability to create opportunities for himself and his teammates offensively, Jackson said it will take a joint defensive effort to slow          him down.

“He’s such a reactionary player. He doesn’t have too many weaknesses, so with him, you just have to get a hand up and hope the ball doesn’t go in,” Jackson said. “You can make him take tough shots, but he’s made so many tough shots already it’s just become natural to him.”

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Associate head coach Greg Gard said he was pleased with the way Wisconsin made Burke take tough shots when the Wolverines came to the Kohl Center last month. However, the Badgers allowed Burke to get into a rhythm in the second half of                         that contest.

“[Burke] was able to get into the paint on us, so we’ll have to be better off ball screens,” Gard said. “Trey’s really done a great job of learning how to create on his own shot. You can guard him perfectly and he’ll still create separation and be able to get a shot off.”

Tip-off for the Wisconsin-Michigan showdown Friday is set for 25 minutes after completion of the Illinois-Indiana matchup, which will start at 11 a.m. The winners of those two games will meet in the semifinal round Saturday.

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