Four weeks ago, Michigan scored 43 points in the first half against the Badgers. Sunday at the Chrisler Center, it took the Wolverines over 30 minutes to reach the same number.
They raced back into the game in the second half after trailing by as many as 18 in the first, but this was the next step in a defensive re-constitution that helped No. 21 Wisconsin (8-5 Big Ten, 21-5 overall) earn a 75-62 win, stay on a roll and at least hang around the Big Ten title conversation.
Having Frank Kaminsky didn't hurt, either.
After the Wolverines (10-3, 18-7) had closed the lead to three at 52-49 with 6:16 remaining, Kaminsky (25 points, 11 rebounds) scored all but three points during a 13-3 UW run that sealed the enormous road win. The redshirt junior scored with his back to the basket, he scored attacking the rim and he capped the decisive run with a step-back three as the shot clock expired.
The Badgers locked down Michigan in the first half, allowing just 19 points on 7-of-22 shooting. UM had seven turnovers and zero assists in the first 20 minutes, but got hot behind sophomore guard Caris LeVert in the second half. The Pickerington, Ohio, native scored 17 of his 25 points as Michigan closed the gap over 14 minutes. His two free throws cut the lead to three before Wisconsin answered with its knockout punch.
Of late, the Badgers have leaned heavily on the play of freshman forward and sixth-man of the year candidate Nigel Hayes (10.9 points per game in Big Ten play entering Sunday). Against Michigan, it was all about the five starters that head coach Bo Ryan has used every game this season. The starters accounted for 69 of Wisconsin's 75 points despite another tough shooting night for senior guard Ben Brust (seven points, 3-of-11 shooting, 1-of-7 on three-pointers). Hayes and fellow freshman Bronson Koenig had moments -- the point guard from La Crosse, Wis., effectively used his ability to get to the basket to find open shooters over his 10 minutes -- but the upperclassmen carried the day.
Overshadowed by Kaminsky's huge game, junior point guard Traevon Jackson put together a sparkling performance despite not shooting the ball well. Jackson finished with nine points on 1-of-6 shooting, but made seven of eight free throws, chipped in three rebounds and, most importantly, posted six assists and no turnovers.
The Badgers turned the ball over just two times total and Jackson effectively controlled the pace of play throughout.
"I told Trae that was one of the best 1-for-6 performances I have ever seen," Ryan told reporters after the game, according to UWBadgers.com.
Still, it was the Badgers efforts on the defensive end that showed the most marked difference between these two teams' first and second meetings. The Wolverines set the tone in Madison Jan. 18 by connecting on 17-of-28 shots (60.7 percent) and piling up 43 points in the first half. Sunday, they managed just 19 first half points. As it so often does with the Badgers, the effort started with Josh Gasser.
The redshirt junior guard held Michigan's star sophomore guard Nic Stauskas to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Stauskas, who led the Big Ten in three-point shooting entering play at 44.7 percent and scored Michigan's last 11 points in their earlier win against UW, did not hit a three and attempted only two on the afternoon.
Gasser, on the other hand, hit three of his four three-point tries Sunday and is 9-of-15 (60 percent) from deep during Wisconsin's four-game winning streak.
Kaminsky nearly earned a double-double in the first half (10 points, eight rebounds) as the Badgers dominated the boards early. He and Sam Dekker combined to nearly out-rebound Michigan (14-15) on their own over the first 20 minutes.
Dekker finished just short of a double-double of his own, contributing 15 points and nine rebounds in another impressively active effort for the sophomore forward.
The Badgers outscored Michigan 32-14 in the paint.