ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan basketball team needed this one.
In order to sustain — and possibly inflate — its NCAA Tournament hopes, Michigan needed a win against No. 11 Wisconsin on Thursday night at the Crisler Center. And the Wolverines got it, 64-58.
Moritz Wagner scored 21 points and Zak Irvin added 18 for Michigan (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten Conference), which earned its first win against a ranked opponent this season.
Here’s what Michigan coach John Beilein said after the Wolverines’ win against the Badgers (21-5, 10-3):
On the outcome: “Those last 30 seconds, I’m so glad we weren’t just up by 1-2-3, like we’ve been against them at their place a couple times, and lose the game. Our kids have battled, we battled when we had to. Wisconsin came out of halftime with precision. We did not and I thought it was going to cost us but we got a good, old-fashioned bank shot from Zak that really changed his world a little bit. What he’s going through, the last couple weeks, and it changed us.”
On Irvin breaking out of a slump: “When he threw that airball and missed by four feet … I don’t care. I told him to shoot it while they’re open. I told them, it’s going to be very hard for us to have success this year if we shut him off. He scored 1,400 points. You don’t say, ‘OK, you don’t know how to score anymore.’ It’s riding a bike. He might fall down a couple times but you’ve got to keep going with it and going with it while you build another package around him.”
On Ethan Happ’s 22 points for Wisconsin: “When we looked at our numbers last time — Northwestern double-teamed him the whole game and it was a point a possession. When we didn’t double-team him it was .6 (per possession). We couldn’t have it in our package, but we said, we need it. Not all were post-ups. Mo’s 21 points, I’m really happy with that. He’s got to improve his defense, too, he got sloppy at times. He’s just got to get better there. Happ is really good. Part of why Wisconsin is so successful against us and others, there’s so little low-post game in college basketball, just down low. It’s unique to guard.”
“Hayes is not quite as good, and he’s an extremely good passer, but he’s still probably one of the next-best in the league.”
On Derrick Walton Jr. being limited to 5 points: “Let’s remember that (injured Wisconsin guard) Bronson Koenig was not here today. (The Badgers are) safely in the NCAA Tournament and it’s a great move by Greg (Gard) to sit him down and let him be healthy. I don’t know if this game would have turned out if he was out there, because (D’Mitrik) Trice is going to be a real good player.”
“(Zak) Showalter is an elite defender. I don’t care who you put on him, he shuts off your water. Derrick had some good looks. He didn’t get many but all the sudden, he found the right people. That’s more typical, not the percentages, but for him not to score a lot but get a lot of assists. I’m just glad other people were there to pick it up.”
On the difference Thursday against Wisconsin: “I don’t know if they go up 8 like that, maybe we don’t win the game. Maybe it’s nip-and-tuck and we let it get away at the end.
“Maybe our guys have their backs to the wall again, knowing that we were in trouble. Derrick Walton is in the huddle shouting at people, ‘we’ve got to get stops!’ That’s not typical Derrick Walton. These guys know, when you’re playing a top-25 team, a win on the road is probably worth two wins, a win at home is worth a game-and-a-half, as far as if you’re building a résumé right now. But I felt a sense of urgency from this team once we went down by 8.”
On Wagner using the stationary bike in the second half: “I have no idea why he was. He must have saw Dirk (Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks) doing that last night. … I said, ‘Where’s Mo?’ They said, ‘He’s down on the bike.’ I said, ‘That’s OK.’
“That’s just funny. … I’m not going to ask him why he’s on the bike. He’s staying loose, and there’s nothing wrong.”
On playing four of the final five regular-season games on the road: “Teams that are traditionally in the NCAA Tournament … and now it’s the new wave of teams that are pretty good. Minnesota, Northwestern, Nebraska, all on the road. The home game we’ve got, is a team I think could win the national championship, Purdue and they’re just really, really good.
“It goes from the frying pan to the fire right now. It’s on the road. That great crowd we had tonight, we’re going to see them in Minnesota. They’re excited. So we’re going to have to go in there and play better than today.”