Wisconsin found itself in the losing column for the second straight game on Thursday, falling 64-58 at Michigan, and now must face down some serious problems as it heads into the home stretch of the regular season.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair with neither team building a lead greater than 6 points. Michigan (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten) started strong to begin the game, reaching a 21-15 lead after a Duncan Robinson 3-pointer with 8:52 remaining. Then Ethan Happ got going. Having played well to that point, the Wisconsin center took over and scored 12 points over the span of 8 minutes to give the No. 11 Badgers a 31-30 lead entering halftime.
In the 1st half tonight, Ethan Happ is responsible for 27 of Wisconsin's 31 points. 18 pts, 4 dimes leading to 9 more.
— Matt Lepay (@MattLepay) February 17, 2017
The two teams traded streaks to open the second half, with Wisconsin (21-5, 10-3) scoring the first 7 points before Michigan roared back with a 13-4 run. The Wolverines soon took over from there, breaking off a 13-3 run to take over the game and coast to the win. All told, Wisconsin was just 9 of 29 from the field in the second half.
#Badgers were on pace to crack the 40 percent mark for the first time in 5 games. Then they made just 2 of their next 16 shots.
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) February 17, 2017
Why Michigan won
Happ sure looked like he had figured out how to break a double-team after a weak performance against the strategy in the Badgers’ 66-59 loss Sunday to Northwestern, but Michigan was able to adjust at halftime and neutralize him enough to get the win. After 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting and 4 assists in the first half, Happ put up only 4 points against 5 second-half fouls.
What it means
Wisconsin has lost in consecutive games for the first time this season and no longer has sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. The Badgers are now tied at 10-3 in conference play with Purdue and Maryland, their next foe. A loss on Sunday to the Terrapins would push Wisconsin into third place, behind a pair of teams that hold tiebreakers against the Badgers.
D’Mitrik Trice made his first career start — just the fifth freshman to start a game for Wisconsin since 2000 — but didn’t make the best first impression. Playing in relief of the injured Bronson Koenig, Trice was inefficient from the field, shooting 2 of 15 for 9 points, but he did contribute 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. It would be hard to describe his performance without the words “freshman jitters.”
Who was there
Past Wisconsin great and current Detroit Piston Jon Leuer was on hand to watch his alma mater take on one of the local teams. In four seasons at Wisconsin (2007-11), Leuer scored the 14th-most points in school history with 1,376. Golf broadcaster and Wisconsin native Andy North was also around.
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) February 17, 2017
Who is next
The Sunday date with Maryland has loomed large for the Badgers for the entirety of Big Ten play, with the two teams pacing the conference for most of the season. A Maryland win could turn the Big Ten race into a two-team race with Purdue, and would put the Boilermakers in pole position for the top seed in next month’s Big Ten Tournament. Purdue holds wins against both Maryland and Wisconsin. Tip-off is scheduled for noon CT (1 p.m. ET) at the Kohl Center and will be televised on CBS.
HUGE game coming up Sunday vs. Maryland. Hopefully there will be something to take from this loss, like Trice shooting less than 15 times.
— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) February 17, 2017