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Game notes: No. 3 Michigan 67, No. 21 Wisconsin 59

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This game was proof as to why they play two halves in basketball.

Michigan v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Badgers got their doors blown off in the first meeting between these two teams and Sunday’s rematch was, somehow, one million times worse. The No. 21 Wisconsin Badgers (15-7 overall, 9-6 Big Ten) blew a dozen-point halftime lead at home and lost to the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (14-1 overall, 9-1 Big Ten) who hadn’t played a game in over three weeks.

SUPER FUN GAME!

Since Wisconsin lost, we didn’t get an post-game notes from the athletic department (which is honestly my favorite passive-aggressive thing they do, besides not answering my emails) but I think we’ll have plenty to discuss regardless. Here are some fun facts and highlights from the demoralizing loss on Sunday to the Wolverines.

  • Wisconsin played a brilliant first half. They were aggressive, they played good defense, they shot well from three and got to the free throw line regularly, where they shot well. Pretty much everything that had been going wrong over the past couple of games went right in the first 20 minutes. And, lo and behold, UW was up 39-27 and feeling good.
  • Aleem Ford shot the lights out in the first half, scoring 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting (3-of-3 from long range), in 15 minutes of play. D’Mitrik Trice had 11 points (5-of-5 from the free throw line), two assists and a steal in the first half too. Micah Potter awoke from his slumber and scored seven points in nine minutes while not missing a shot.
  • Things changed in the second half, and how! The Badgers shot 5-of-7 from three in the first half but 1-of-12 in the second half, they were also outscored 40-20 in the second half which is, like, really not great. Only one Badger, freshman Jonathan Davis, made more than one field goal in the second half.
  • Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter, who are listed at 6-foot-11 and 6-foot-10 respectively, recorded as many rebounds as you or I did on Sunday. I do not understand how the two tallest players on the team don’t mistakenly get a rebound, let alone get abused on the glass by Michigan freshman Hunter Dickinson (15 total rebounds, five offensive).
  • Those five offensive rebounds by Dickinson were back breakers. On one, Dickinson kicked it out to Isaiah Livers who nailed a three and I’ll just let Potrykus take it from here. This sequence pretty much ended the game.
  • We had a vibrant discussion over on Twitter about Greg Gard’s substitution patterns for this game with some of us thinking it was the main reason for the loss and others of us thinking it was just a piece of the puzzle as to why UW lost. I am squarely in the camp of “it cost Wisconsin the game.” Nate Reuvers and Brad Davison should have barely played in the second half and Micah Potter and Trevor Anderson should have seen more time. Reuvers was a disaster on offense (three points on 1-of-7 shooting, zero rebounds, one assist and one turnover) and indifferent at best on defense (one blocked shot!), where he usually outshines Potter. To his credit, Potter was active on defense (he had three blocks along with multiple other good plays) and locked in on offense (nine points on 4-of-9 shooting). Neither of them could get a rebound which is still...just baffling. Davison shot 1-of-5 from the field for three points and had zero assists to one turnover. He was active on the boards, grabbing six (two offensive), but was one of two players (with Reuvers) who had a negative defensive box plus/minus. While Anderson didn’t score, he had four assists (which led the team), three rebounds and one steal in 10 fewer minutes than Davison.
  • Wisconsin had 10 turnovers to Michigan’s six.
  • I don’t know which one is correct, but the StatBroadcast numbers have the Badgers shooting 5-of-13 on layups while Torvik has them shooting 4-of-7 at the rim. They might both be correct, for all I know, since I don’t know how each entity quantifies these shot attempts. Either way, neither were as good as Michigan, who shot 8-of-16 on layups and 8-of-9 at the rim.
  • Part of this was how good Dickinson was at defending the rim. He had five blocks on the day and there were a number of times in the second half where he deterred a potential drive attempt, especially against Trice who had his shot altered or swatted a few times in the first half.
  • When Davison’s elbow hit Mike Smith on a layup attempt, and Juwan Howard got a technical foul for arguing the call, the score was 42-32 Wisconsin with 18:19 remaining in the game. After that, the Wolverines outscored the Badgers 35-17 and won the game going away.
  • This is not based in any sort of fact or stat, but even when the Badgers were winning in the second half it still felt like the game was over and Michigan was going to win/was already winning. You know how you just get “the feeling” as a fan? That’s what most of the second half was like for me.
  • Jonathan Davis tried like hell to keep the Badgers above water, scoring eight points in the second half on various tough takes to the basket. It wasn’t nearly enough though because no one else offered much help.

Trice scored five inefficient points, Potter had three blocks but also missed all three of his three-point attempts and Davison made the only three of the half but was 1-of-5 from the field overall.

  • This was an extremely frustrating game as the first half showed just how good the Badgers can be. They were dominating a Final Four contender and it didn’t even seem that hard. Then the second half showed the Badgers as a team devoid of ideas and needing more players that can create shots and scoring opportunities. While anything can happen in a single-elimination tournament, there is little doubt in my mind that the “second half Badgers” from Sunday are closer to what this team actually is than the “first half Badgers.”