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Wisconsin men’s basketball: Michigan recap, part II

That suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkked.

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

On the heels of securing a road win over Nebraska, the No. 21 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (15-7 overall, 9-6 B1G) welcomed the No. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines (14-1 overall, 9-1 Big Ten) to the Kohl Center for a Valentine's Day showdown.

The last time the two teams met, Michigan was unequivocally superior, dominating the Badgers 77-54 in mid-January. Since then, Wisconsin’s play has been fairly uneven, but they came into the game winners of two of their last three games. Michigan on the other hand made the trip to Madison fresh off of 23-day program shutdown to to COVID-19.

After the long layover, it took Michigan some time to get readjusted, but in the end they took care of the Badgers on Sunday afternoon, 67-59, after a big second half comeback.

After some back and forth play in the first few minutes, the two teams went into the first media timeout all tied up at five. Coming out of the timeout Aleem Ford went to work and gave the Badgers a three-point lead with 11:12 left to play in the first half. The senior forward scored 11 of the first 15 points for Wisconsin, and was a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor in that span.

The Badgers were able to pull slightly ahead at the eight and a half minute mark behind some hot shooting, but over the the course of the next five minutes Wisconsin was able to push their lead up to 10 points with 3:37 left in the first half.

In the final few minutes of the half Wisconsin was able to add to their advantage, and went into the break with a 39-27 lead over Michigan.

In the first five minutes out of the halftime break Michigan would go on a 8-1 run to pull within six points, as Wisconsin started out 1-of-5 from the floor.

Freshman Jonathan Davis would get things going for the Badgers though, with four quick points to get the Wisconsin lead back up to seven points with 12 minute remaining in the game, and slow the Michigan run.

Michigan was able to narrow the deficit to three points with 8:30 to play as Wisconsin went on a three minute scoring drought.

Over the final eight minutes Michigan would open things up and eventually pull away from the Badgers for an eight point win, and a heartbreaking loss for Wisconsin.

Notable stat lines:

  • D’Mitrik Trice —> 16 points (4-of-11 from the floor), five rebounds, three assists
  • Aleem Ford —> 15 points (5-of-8 from the floor), two rebounds
  • Isaiah Livers (Michigan) —> 20 points (8-of-16 from the floor), seven rebounds
  • Hunter Dickinson (Michigan) —> 11 points (3-of-9 from the floor), 15 rebounds, five blocks

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: Energy

One of the major sticking points for the Badgers this season has been a lack of energy at times. Opponents have been able to gobble up loose balls and dictate the game far too often. The first time these two teams met was a perfect example, as Michigan’s defensive intensity and aggressiveness on offense vaulted them past the Badgers with relative ease.

In this rematch however, it was Wisconsin who saw the breaks go their way due to improved intensity. While Michigan was still able to win some offensive rebounds, the Badgers won some 50-50 balls that in the previous games would have likely gone the other way.

Wisconsin played much improved defense and the team played aggressive. The energy and better play on the defensive end proved to help them out on the other end of the court as well, as Wisconsin was able to hold Michigan to their lowest scoring output in a half this season while also shooting over 50% at the same time. That is a strong recipe for success.

Michigan came out in the second half with a ton of energy and confidence to swing the game in their favor and ultimately they proved to be too good for the Badgers. Wisconsin could not carry over their defensive energy in the second half, as Michigan shot 48% in the second half and over 42% from three.

No. 2: Hot shots

After struggling for the better half of the past month shooting the ball, the Badgers broke out of their shooting slump in a major way in the first half against Michigan. Everything was falling for Wisconsin from three (71%) and as a team they finished the half shooting 54% from the floor in general. Both Micah Potter and Aleem Ford played great in the first half, and combined to score 20 points on a flawless 8-of-8 shooting. That burst of scoring was huge for the Badgers, as it gave them a 12-point edge at halftime.

The second half was far from anything spectacular for Greg Gard’s bunch however. Wisconsin went ice cold in the second half, shooting only 25% from the floor and shot an abysmal 1-of-12 from three.

Michigan got hot in the second half and outscored Wisconsin by 20 while shooting much better, including 11-of-14 from the free throw line.

The swing in shooting production played a huge part in the game, as outside of Jonathan Davis no one could get much going on offense in the second half for the Badgers.

No. 3: Big time letdown

The Wisconsin bigs were completely outclassed by Hunter Dickinson and the Michigan frontcourt.

Micah Potter had a nice stretch in the first half, but the duo of Potter and Reuvers were unable to protect the rim and struggled to keep Michigan off the offensive glass.

While the Wolverines only outrebounded the Badgers by four overall, Wisconsin allowed 11 offensive rebounds that in turn resulted in 15 second chance points. Hunter Dickinson personally grabbed 15 boards, and also added five blocks, and he was a big reason why Michigan was also +10 in points in the paint.

Both standing 6-foot-10, Potter and Reuvers combined for ZERO rebounds, and were unable to hold their own against the length of Michigan.

In a game in which Wisconsin desperately needed, their two main bigs let them down and once again were outplayed by the opposing forwards. The issues around rebounding and interior defense has popped up routinely for the Badgers this year, but no rebounds by the two Wisconsin bigs is not good enough. Especially when they combined to play 40 minutes.

Up next: Wisconsin will have another tough matchup upcoming, as they welcome Iowa to the Kohl Center on Thursday. Tip-time is set for 6 p.m. CST, and it will be aired on ESPN.