ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zak Irvin rediscovered his touch. Moritz Wagner continued his aggressive pace of play. And the Michigan basketball team took advantage of Wisconsin’s depleted lineup for a 64-58 win Thursday night at the Crisler Center.
Irvin, Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman combined for 51 points, and Wagner scored a team high 21 as Michigan (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten Conference) rallied from an eight-point deficit in the first three minutes of the second half to earn its first win against a ranked opponent this season.
While Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ led all scorers with 22 points, the absence of Wisconsin point guard Bronson Koenig was notable. Koenig sat out with an undisclosed leg injury, sustained Sunday in a 66-59 loss to Northwestern, and Wisconsin (21-5, 10-3 Big Ten) was out of sync early in the game.
Michigan took an 8-2 lead on Wisconsin before the Badgers stormed back to tie the game, first at 15-15 on Khalil Iverson’s shot with 10:50 left, then at 21-21 on Happ’s bucket with less than eight minutes left in the half. Happ scored 18 points in the first half as Wisconsin took a 31-30 lead.
Michigan took advantage of a lull midway through the second half by Wisconsin to go on a 9-0 run. In that time, Wisconsin was 0-for-6 shooting and was scoreless for nearly four minutes as Michigan built a 54-47 lead and led by as many as nine points in the final 7:15.
What it means
Michigan’s hopes for the NCAA Tournament got a big boost with the win against the Badgers, who entered at No. 11 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and at No. 24 in the NCAA’s men’s basketball RPI. While Michigan coach John Beilein earlier in the week insisted that his team won’t be in the tournament until it knows it has earned a berth, the win against the Badgers doesn’t hurt the Wolverines’ hopes.
Irvin broke out of a drought by scoring 18 points; he had scored no more than five points a game in Michigan’s previous four games while recovering from the flu.
Again, Wagner stormed out early and scored 12 of his 21 points in the first half.
Surprisingly, Derrick Walton Jr., who had a quiet first half, though he reached another milestone:
— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) February 17, 2017
Walton, however, didn’t score his first points until 1:11 remained in the first half and finished with five points. He entered Thursday’s game against Wisconsin averaging 23 points in his previous five games.
Who was there
Former Michigan basketball players Tim Hardaway Jr., Caris LeVert and Josh Bartelstein, who played on Michigan’s 2013 national runner-up team, were at Thursday’s game. Former Michigan and NFL wide receiver Braylon Edwards — who is completing his degree at Michigan — was also on hand.
Who is next
Michigan plays at 7 p.m. ET Sunday at Minnesota. Michigan kicks off a stretch in which four of its final five games are on the road.