The Michigan basketball team was on the verge of earning a much-needed signature win.
Then the Wolverines squandered a 7-point lead in the second half and went into scramble mode in the closing minutes on Tuesday. The frenzied final minute even saw Zak Irvin’s 3-pointer with 4 seconds left to cut Wisconsin’s lead to just 2 points. But in the end, Michigan lost at No. 17 Wisconsin 68-64 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., falling just short in a game most expected them to have not chance in.
Tied at 49-49 with less than 5 minutes to play, Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig hit a pair of 3-pointers to give the Badgers a 6-point lead in a game in which the Badgers (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) struggled early on defense — and Michigan didn’t.
Wisconsin went for a stretch of more than four minutes in the first half without scoring … but still took a 10-6 lead on Ethan Happ’s layup to end the drought with 13:22 to play in a low-scoring first half.
Then, with 7:11 left in the half, Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman tied the game at 19-19 for Michigan (12-7, 2-4), but the Wolverines and Badgers combined for only 9 points through the end of the first half, and just 2 of those came from Michigan.
Michigan missed its final 6 shots of the first half and trailed 26-21 at halftime, but opened the second half with a 13-1 run, despite picking up seven quick fouls — D.J. Wilson was called for his fourth 8 minutes into the second half. Wisconsin continued to chip back, cutting Michigan’s lead to 38-36 with 11 minutes left, then tying the game at 43-43 on Ethan Happ’s 3-point play with 8:16 left.
WHY IT HAPPENED
Many thought this game would be a blowout — nationally ranked Wisconsin against Michigan, which continues to attempt to find its rhythm less than three weeks into its Big Ten schedule. Michigan led by as many as 7 points but faded in the final minutes as Koenig found his rhythm at the perimeter.
WHAT IT MEANS
Michigan continued to fight, even with two players in foul trouble with less than 7 minutes left, and adjusted to the game’s tempo after playing in a high-paced game Saturday against Nebraska. This might be a confidence-building loss, but a stronger, deeper team took control in the game’s final 10 minutes.
Irvin led Michigan with 20 points and Derrick Walton Jr. added 15. Koenig scored 16 points, while Vitto Brown and Nigel Hayes each added 13 for Wisconsin.
Three days after a scoring a season-high 23 points in a win against Nebraska, Michigan’s Moritz Wagner scored 10 points but was in foul trouble in the second half. He fouled out 1:13 left. Wilson was held scoreless as he struggled with foul trouble — he fouled out in the final 30 seconds.
WHO IS NEXT
Michigan hosts Illinois at 2:15 p.m. ET Saturday at the Crisler Center.