After paying back rival Minnesota for a home-court defeat on Thursday night, No. 19 Wisconsin (9-4 Big Ten, 17-7 overall) traveled to Ann Arbor to face a seventh-ranked Michigan team looking to exact similar vengeance for Wisconsin’s thrilling victory three weeks ago that sparked the Badgers' six-game win streak.
Michigan (11-2 Big Ten, 22-2 overall) flipped the script of that first meeting, falling behind early but combining stout defense and a few key shots late to pull away with a win on its home court over the Badgers. Here are the major takeaways from Saturday’s action.
Happ dominates first half, but Wolverines crawl back
After flirting with a triple-double three weeks ago, senior forward Ethan Happ came out hot against a stout Wolverines defense. Michigan opted not to double-team Happ, and he started the game by making five of his first six shots, pushing around Michigan center Jon Teske and scoring with a magic touch from inside. He had 10 points and five assists before the first period was halfway through, pacing UW to an early 13-5 lead.
Michigan, which shot a woeful three of 11 to start the game, began to pick it up down the stretch. The Wolverines hit five of their next six shots, eventually taking the lead before the Badgers knotted it up by the half. Though UW shot a better field goal percentage, they hit only one of their seven attempts from beyond the arc, while Michigan hit four of their eight three-point attempts.
Early-second half fouls provide turning point
The Badgers missed six of their first seven shots to start the second period, with all six misses from within the paint. To make matters worse, Happ was called for his third foul three minutes into the half. Head coach Greg Gard didn’t bring Happ back until the nine minute and 13 second mark of the half, providing Michigan with the opportunity to pull ahead. Teske, who led the Wolverines in scoring in the last matchup, scored seven points in Happ’s absence, and finished with a double-double, including a career-high 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Shortly after Happ’s foul, a hook-and-hold flagrant foul called on sophomore guard Brad Davison gave the Wolverines the momentum. With the game still tied at 27, Michigan was granted two free throws, which they made. On the accompanying possession, they hit a jumper to make it a four-point lead. This energized the Breslin Center crowd, as a UW defensive rebound turned into the Wolverines’ largest lead of the game to that point. They never relinquished their advantage.
Even with Happ off the floor, timely contributions from Nate Reuvers, Kobe King and D’Mitrik Trice hit big shots to keep the game close. The Wolverines never lead by more than five in the eight minutes Happ was absent.
When he and Davison returned, the Badgers trailed 44-40. Happ had scored no points in the half to that point. With him on the floor, Wisconsin’s offense began to open up, but it was still unable to match Michigan at the other end.
Brazdeikis struggles again, Teske and Matthews thrive
Michigan star forward Ignas Brazdeikis has been the team’s leader throughout the season, averaging over 15 points per game. Against Wisconsin on January 19, he went scoreless, and things didn’t go much better in the rematch’s first half. The Lithuanian national went one of seven from the floor in the first 20 minutes, good for only two points, the same number he finished the game with.
A balanced Michigan team filled in the gaps, though, and numerous big hoops from Charles Matthews and Teske kept the Badgers at an arm’s length. Taking advantage of poor interior defense, the pair scored 26 of Michigan’s 34 points in the second half. Matthews finished with a team-high 18 points after a series of extremely difficult contested jumpers.