Now it’s really time for March Madness.
The Wisconsin Badgers were unable overcome a slow start to the second half, dropping the Big Ten tournament championship game to Michigan 71-56 Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.
Wisconsin now travels to Buffalo, N.Y., to begin the NCAA tournament as a No. 8 seed in the East Region vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech on Thursday.
The No. 24 Badgers (25-9, 12-6 Big Ten) finished the first half on a 12-3 run over the final five minutes to enter halftime trailing the Wolverines 33-32. Both teams finished the first half shooting lights-out; Michigan (24-11, 10-8 Big Ten) shot 59.1 percent from the field and 53.8 percent from outside, while Wisconsin shot 53.8 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from outside.
However, Wisconsin went scoreless for over the first five minutes of the second half while Michigan started the half on a 6-0 run.
Nigel Hayes was finally able to put Wisconsin on the board by sinking two free throws at the 14:41 mark, but the Badgers’ troubles did not end there. Wisconsin failed to register a field goal in the half until Ethan Happ laid in a shot almost three minutes later. At that juncture, Michigan held a 44-36 lead.
Wisconsin made several attempts to get back into the game, but Michigan seemed to have an answer for each push the Badgers made. Wisconsin pulled within six points at 51-45 following a 5-0 run started by a Vitto Brown three-pointer and a Zak Showalter steal and lay-in, and it appeared the Badgers had found some much-needed momentum to get themselves back into the game.
However, following a Michigan timeout, Zak Irvin answered Wisconsin’s run with a three-pointer, ending any sort of momentum the Badgers had and beginning a 20-11 run over the remaining 6:20. Wisconsin was unable to bring the game within seven points during Michigan's final push.
Michigan was paced by Derrick Walton Jr., who scored 22 points and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. D.J. Wilson scored 17 points and Irvin rounded out the Wolverine’s double-digit scorers with 15 points.
Three Badgers finished in double-digits with Bronson Koenig scoring 15 points and both Hayes and Happ registering double-doubles with 14 points and 11 rebounds each.