Badgers stumble into three-game skid

Some results you can see coming a mile away.

Winning at Michigan was going to be a tall task for Wisconsin no matter how you sliced it, but especially if the Badgers didn't break out of the terrible shooting slump that plagued them in back-to-back home losses. The host Wolverines were not very accommodating, however, as No. 16 Michigan (13-3, 3-1) held No. 18 Wisconsin (12-5, 1-3) to a season-low point total in a 59-41 loss.

While the Michigan defense deserves a lot of credit for Wisconsin's 16-of-51 (31%) shooting performance, the Badgers watched dozens of open shots go wanting, many of which were not even close to going in.

Bad omens were plentiful in this one. Even when something went UW's way, the team found a way to turn it negative. For example, Mike Bruesewitz forced a turnover in the first minute of the game and made a great hustle play to get the ball to a wide open Ryan Evans. Great start, right? Evans, who was fouled by Jordan Morgan on the dunk attempt, missed both free throws and the Badgers wouldn't score a point until an Evans jumper after the first media timeout.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines weren't lighting the nets on fire yet either. The first half was a grinding, style-reinforcing advertisement for Wisconsin basketball on national television that ended with the UW trailing, 25-19.

Michigan flipped the script in the second half though. The Wolverines asserted control over all the key individual match ups, led by freshman point guard Trey Burke. Burke introduced himself to Badger Nation in impressive fashion by outplaying Jordan Taylor. He used his quickness to blow by Taylor at will, finishing with 14 points, three rebounds and two assists.

Taylor was bottled up by Michigan's defense that sent a brief double-team his way on every high pick-and-roll. The senior was unable to exploit the strategy as he often over-dribbled instead of quickly passing to find the open man. Taylor scored 12 points to lead all Badgers, but committed three of UW's 12 turnovers.

Many of Wisconsin's turnovers were due to flat out awful passes to no one. The mental mistakes stunted an offense that needs all the help it can get these days. The Badgers posted a disappointing 0.76 points-per-possession while Michigan cruised to 1.09 PPP -- the highest mark surrendered by Wisconsin this season.

Early on the Badgers found themselves down 10-2 after two Tim Hardaway Jr. free throws with 12:51 left in the first half, only to explode with a rare 10-0 run over the next minute and a half to take a two-point lead. The future appeared bright. Josh Gasser spurred the run with a dose of offensive aggression and stellar ball movement that became contagious, if only for a time.

Unfortunately for Gasser and company, the offensive mojo left as quickly as it came. Taylor put UW back on top, 14-13, a moment later, but that was the last lead of the day for the Badgers. Wisconsin closed the half with two separate scoring droughts of 3:50 and 3:12. Even so, the Badgers actually held the advantage in points in the paint (12-10), points off turnovers (8-4), second-chance points (5-4) and fastbreak points (2-0) at halftime.

The scoring droughts continued when the teams resumed play. The Badgers went five minutes without a score until a Mike Bruesewitz 3-pointer broke the ice. Wisconsin scored only seven points through 10 minutes of second-half clock, by which point Hardaway had gotten loose for Michigan and stretched the lead to 17 points.

As John Beilein emptied his bench at the end of the game, the margin would balloon to 19. In contrast to the halftime statistics, the final stats show Michigan outscored Wisconsin in every possible way in the second half: 14-2 in the paint, 12-2 in points off turnovers, 9-1 in second-chance points, and 4-0 in fastbreak points.

Hardaway finished with a double-double for the Wolverines with 10 rebounds and a game-high 17 points via a renewed 3-point touch and 7-of-8 free throw shooting. Michigan put the hurt on Wisconsin from the charity stripe as well, shooting 17-of-20 from the line, whereas the Badgers shot just 2-of-5.

Bo Ryan did not empty his bench like Beilein, but did give extended minutes to Traevon Jackson, Rob Wilson and Frank Kaminsky as he searched for an offensive spark. That spark never came.

Junior Jared Berggren struggled again, hitting 1-of-6 from the field, grabbing five rebounds and turning the ball over three times. His counterpart, Morgan, edged Berggren 4-3 in scoring, but grabbed 10 second-half rebounds -- five of them on the offensive end.

With the loss, expect Wisconsin to drop out of the AP Top 25 on Monday for the first time in 19 weeks. Wisconsin has three days to re-calibrate its shooting touch before another stiff road test at Purdue, one of the toughest places for Bucky to win through the years.


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