The Wisconsin Badgers suffered a devastating 87-79 loss on Sunday in Ann Arbor to the Michigan Wolverines, continuing their inconsistent trend of struggling to win two consecutive games and dropping to 16-12 overall and 8-10 in conference play.
The Badgers and Wolverines were engaged in an intense back-and-forth battle during the second half, after Wisconsin took a 53-52 lead with 7:30 remaining after trailing for the entire period, even by as much as 10 points.
Wisconsin was able to match every Michigan score down the stretch of regulation, as Max Klesmit hit a clutch banked three-pointer to give Wisconsin a 64-61 lead with 1:53 left, while Connor Essegian drove in for a nice touch shot with 24 seconds remaining to give Wisconsin a 66-65 lead, which was extended to 68-65 after a pair of Kamari McGee free throws with seven seconds left.
Then, all hell came crashing loose.
The Badgers didn’t foul Dug McDaniel coming up the court, who found Kobe Bufkin for a three-point attempt, which Max Klesmit miraculously blocked with a second remaining.
On the inbounds pass, Jordan Davis lunged for a steal against Hunter Dickinson and failed as the Michigan center made a nice catch, took a dribble, and fired a contested deep three-pointer to tie the game.
At that moment, several questions swirled through Badgers fans' minds: Why not foul earlier? Why go for the steal? How does the shot go in?
Let’s re-evaluate the end-of-the-game sequence, identifying where the Badgers went wrong.
Here’s the play of the blocked three-pointer prior to Dickinson’s three.
Idk if i’d call this “trying to foul” pic.twitter.com/4rLHjHeMcK— Connor Lionela Bessegdog (@YNWABadger) February 26, 2023
After the game, head coach Greg Gard indicated that the Badgers were looking to foul at that point with Kamari McGee on Dug McDaniel.
If that’s the case, there needs to be a much clearer effort on McGee’s end to foul, which wasn’t seen much during the video, even if it was intended.
Whether that’s due to a lack of communication from Gard or poor execution from McGee, that absolutely cannot happen at that moment.
The Badgers 100% should’ve fouled up three after McDaniel crossed halfcourt at just over five seconds, forcing Michigan’s hand and essentially having them need to travel the length of the court once more to tie.
However, after the blocked shot from Klesmit leaving under two seconds on the court, it’s unreasonable to foul at that moment, given the likelihood of the catch-and-shoot opportunity with such low time on the clock.
Still, it’s questionable whether Davis should have gone for the steal or played straight-up defense, forcing a very contested shot opportunity from Dickinson at that point.
Of course, all credit goes to Dickinson, who made a tough catch, had the smarts to understand there was enough clock for a dribble, and splashed a difficult shot.
But, it was poor execution after poor execution for the Badgers in an all-time awful ending at the time they could least afford it.
Now, they sit on the verge of the bracket, facing their toughest matchup of the year against the Purdue Boilermakers before finishing against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
After the loss, they’ll likely need some magic in the tournament to secure themselves a spot in March.