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RECAP: Badgers win in 64-59 thriller over Michigan

The Badgers held on for a win, potentially keeping their season alive.

The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Michigan Wolverines in an intense Big 10 matchup, winning 64-59, despite missing their last 15 shots and not recording a field goal for the final 10:45 of regulation.

The environment at the Kohl Center certainly had a more energetic atmosphere, clearly fueled by Michigan center Hunter Dickinson’s comments calling Wisconsin “scumbags” on a podcast earlier in the year.

Wisconsin and Michigan went back and forth offensively to begin, with each team shooting over 50% over the first five minutes, leading to a 13-12 game in favor of the Wolverines.

There was an emphasis to forward Steven Crowl early, who converted each of his first two baskets, but the seven-footer struggled significantly following the strong start on Dickinson, shooting just 1/8 through the rest of the half, despite seeing some favorable looks.

Regardless, the Badgers had a strong first 15 minutes of the initial period, leading 27-20 after consecutive three-pointers from Connor Essegian and Max Klesmit.

However, as they’ve been prone to at times this season, Wisconsin went cold over the last 5:31, as Michigan outscored the Badgers 12-4 to take a 32-31 lead into halftime.

While the Badgers were inefficient in the first half, shooting just 36% from the field, due to Steven Crowl’s 3/10 performance and Chucky Hepburn’s 1/5 half, Wisconsin remained tight in the game with five three-pointers in the first half, with Klesmit and Essegian hitting two a piece.

For the second consecutive game, the Badgers were helped predominantly by their guards early on, as Tyler Wahl had just two shots in the first half, while Crowl had an off-night shooting-wise.

In the second half, the Badgers started strong to retain the lead, outscoring the Wolverines 23-10 to begin the period and take a 12-point lead with just over 10 minutes left in the game.

But, the Badgers had their biggest cold stretch of the season offensively, going field-goal-less for the last 10:45, as they missed their last 15 shots.

During the stretch, the Badgers missed several layup opportunities, while becoming too stale down low as their shooters became cold from beyond the arc.

That allowed the Wolverines to creep back in, led by guard Kobe Bufkin, who scored 21 points, but Michigan faced a cold stretch of their own, hitting just two of their last 11 field goals, including a stretch of nearly seven minutes without a bucket.

At the end of the day, with the game on the line, Chucky Hepburn generated a game-winning steal, eventually providing Wisconsin with their 15th win of the season, keeping their playoff hopes alive.

Connor Essegian was the offensive star of the game, scoring a career-high 23 points, which included several nice drives to the basket, as well as nine made free throws.

But, the Badgers got valuable minutes from where they’d least expect it: backup point guard Kamari McGee, who was crucial in swinging the momentum for Wisconsin in his 14 minutes of play, scoring six points on 3/4 shooting, while grabbing a key rebound and dishing an assist.

Defensively, Wisconsin shut down Hunter Dickinson in the second half after a nine-point performance in the first half on 4/6 shooting, as the Michigan center didn’t have a single field goal in the second half, with the action predominantly going through Bufkin for the Wolverines offense.

While Max Klesmit had a tough night defensively, the stellar defensive guard had a strong performance against freshman guard Jett Howard, who shot just 4/14 on the day.

With the win, the Badgers now face off against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at home on Saturday, looking to put together a two-game winning streak for the first time since January 3rd.