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Wisconsin’s strong second half not enough in 83-72 home loss to Michigan

Tons of effort the final 14-plus minutes but not enough to overcome a poor start

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

MADISON—Once again, another first half surge by a Wisconsin Badgers’ opponent led to a hole the team could not dig out from in a home loss.

Despite a valiant second half effort by Wisconsin, No. 20 Michigan’s fast start allowed the Wolverines to hang on for the 83-72 victory at the Kohl Center on Sunday afternoon.

It was a tale of two halves, where Michigan took a 22-point lead into intermission with Wisconsin outscoring the Wolverines by 11 points the final 20 minutes.

In the end, Michigan shot 56 percent for the game on 28 of 50 attempts, with Wisconsin just under 50 percent in hitting 27 of 55 field goals.

Redshirt junior Ethan Happ scored a game-high 29 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the field. The All-American candidate also grabbed seven rebounds in the loss for Wisconsin (11-16, 4-10 Big Ten).

Forward Moritz Wagner scored a team-high 20 points (eight of 14 in field goal attempts) along with grabbing 11 rebounds for Michigan (20-7, 9-5) before fouling out late in the contest.

Michigan shot 65.4 percent from the field (17 of 26), including 57.1 percent (eight of 14) from three-point range on way to a 44-22 halftime lead.

Early on in the game, Wagner’s three-pointer at the 14:27 mark extended Michigan’s lead to 15-2, with the Wolverines at that point connecting on three of four from beyond the arc, six of eight overall from the field in that span.

During that stretch, Wisconsin countered by hitting only one of four field goal attempts and committing three turnovers.

It was a start for a Wisconsin opponent that was reminiscent to the Feb. 2 match-up against Northwestern, where the Wildcats pounced on an 18-1 run to start the game where the Badgers once again could not claw back from.

Head coach Greg Gard even made early substitutions in the early going, allowing the likes of Alex Illikainen, Aaron Moesch and Charles Thomas in for a time period.

Forward Duncan Robinson connected on four of five three-pointers to lead the Wolverines in scoring at halftime with 14 of his 16 points.

Wisconsin could only bring it back to within 15 points after a Brevin Pritzl three-pointer cut the deficit to 37-22 but could not score the final four minutes, 19 seconds of the half after the redshirt junior’s successful jumper.

Pritzl contributed 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including connecting on 2-of-5 from three-point range.

The second half started out bleak for the Badgers, but a final 14-and-a-half minutes allowed Greg Gard’s squad to pull into a competitive game late in the second half.

At the 14:50 mark of the second half, a Jon Teske dunk extended Michigan’s lead to 25 at 53-28. Wisconsin pushed back, however, with a 19-5 run in a 5:35 span to bring the game back within 11 with just under nine minutes left in the game.

Happ scored seven of Wisconsin’s 19 points in that time frame, but also tallied 18 of his 29 points in the second half altogether.

The teams continued to battle, with a Brad Davison three-pointer at the 4:58 mark keeping it an 11-point Michigan lead at 69-58. Wisconsin had a chance to close the lead their next possession, but a steal by Zavier Simpson lead to a Charles Matthews layup.

Matthews contributed 11 points with six rebounds for the Wolverines.

Wisconsin fought back, however at pulled to within eight with Aleem Ford’s three-pointer with under three-and-a-half minutes left to make it a 71-63 contest with 2:37 remaining in the game.

UW shot 60 percent in the second half (18 of 30 on field goal attempts), while Michigan trailed off with only hitting 11 of 24 shots (45.8) later in the game.

From there, the conference match-up became a battle with the charity stripe for Michigan, who converted on 12 of its last 15 free throw attempts in the final 2:15 and did not make a field goal in the final 4:24.

After a Khalil Iverson foul, Simpson missed the front end of a one-and-one but Matthews came down with the rebound with 2:15 remaining. That led to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who scored 15 points with four assists and three rebounds, to connect on two shots from the line after being fouled.

Abdur-Rahkman came up big for Michigan the final couple of minutes, converting seven of his eight attempts from the line during that span.

Though Davison and Pritzl connected on all six free throws—three each—in the final 50 seconds after being fouled from behind the three-point line by Michigan, Wisconsin only connected on one of its last six field goal attempts in the final 1:54 after Ford’s three.