The Badgers will probably want to throw away the tape from tonight as the Wolverines ran away with a 77-51 victory in Ann Arbor. The Badgers shot under 30% from the field while Michigan shot 51% in what was easily the Badgers’ sloppiest performance of the season.
The Badgers started the game in an uncharacteristic way: by actually hitting shots. Thanks in part to a Micah Potter three-ball, Wisconsin trailed 11-8 at the first media timeout. Star freshman center Hunter Dickinson had not scored at that point, but forced a turnover on Potter by poking the ball out from the post, which led to a three on the opposite end from senior Isaiah Livers.
It was clear that despite the small lead, however, that Michigan was in control. Senior Nate Reuvers had his first two shots blocked, and Dickinson emphatically sent home a shot from fellow freshman Jonathan Davis for good measure. Early on, though, Dickinson was a non-factor on the offensive end thanks to stellar defense from Potter.
The Badgers were able to hang with the Wolverines as they lit up the floor thanks to offensive contributions from Potter and point guard D’Mitrik Trice, as well as a continuation of the Tyler Wahl three-point show from the Badgers’ win against Indiana last week. But Juwan Howard’s team looked like a chip off the old block with six blocks in less than 13 minutes of play in the first half, demoralizing the Badger offense. It didn’t help the Badgers that Potter racked up two fouls in eight minutes and Trice was briefly banged up due to a collision with senior forward Nate Reuvers — who, by the way, was essentially a non-factor in the first half.
"We got way out of character ... with what we were doing offensively," said Gard postgame. "And it led to bad defense."
None of the Badgers could chop Livers, and the Wolverines stepped up their defense even more to end the half. The Wolverines ended the first half on a 14-0 run that included a 6:19 scoreless streak for the Badgers. Livers and sophomore forward Franz Wagner led all players in scoring in the first half with 11 and 12 points respectively.
Michigan shot 53% from the field and 54.5% from distance in the first half; the Badgers shot 31% from the field and 21.4% from deep in the same time frame. The Wolverines took a 17-point lead into their home locker room, while coach Greg Gard and the Badgers looked for answers.
"They get a little spark and it turns into an avalanche," said Gard, noting that Michigan has done this to teams before. "That flurry towards the middle end of the first half and into the second half, I didn't like how we responded."
The Badgers found a quick answer in redshirt senior forward Aleem Forward, who scored his first points on an and-one less than twenty seconds into the second half. But Potter was given his third foul and sent to the bench seconds after. Then Tyler Wahl was swatted at the rim, which gave the Wolverines a minute-long offensive possession that resulted in a reverse layup from grad-student point guard Mike Smith.
Every time the Badgers did something good, Michigan did something better.
The rest of the game was more of the same. The Badgers simply couldn’t get out of their own way, and Michigan demolished the rim at every turn. Trice hit a contested three, but Livers hit one immediately after to take the wind out of their sails. Even when Michigan couldn’t sink their first shot, they would regularly grab an offensive board. Michigan ended with a nice six steals and nine blocks while the Badgers floundered to 10 turnovers compared to just eight total assists for the entire game.
"We'll look back and learn ... we'll use every opportunity to learn," said Gard. "This was an opportunity like I told them in the locker room where we're gonna stay on the road ... it'll be a great challenge for us Friday night and we'll see how they respond."
The Badgers return to the court against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in New Brunswick, N.J. The Knights are on a three-game skid, but will have had a six-day break since their loss to No. 21 Ohio State. The game will be on FS1 at 8 p.m. Central Time. Unless the Badgers beat Rutgers so badly that the Seaside Heights boardwalk collapses 60 miles away, Gard’s veterans will likely fall out of the AP top-10 next week.