Sconnie Sports Talk

Wisconsin wins again, defeating Michigan 68-57


MADISON, WI — Wisconsin is suddenly in a four-way tie for second place in the Big Ten after defeating Michigan on Sunday night, 68-57.

Michigan started off this one with a 9-2 run, led by Zak Irvin’s 9 points. Wisconsin quickly fought back, but only shot 42% in the half. The Wolverines did a great job of controlling the defensive paint, forcing 12 Wisconsin three-pointers. The Badgers controlled the tempo and got most of the lucky bounces in the first half, but Greg Gard’s team went into halftime trailing 30-29.

Both teams came out cold in the second half, going a combined 4-13 in the first 4:20. The turning point came when Wisconsin went on an 8-0 run over 3:14 starting at 12:58 left in the game, taking a 47-40 lead. Ethan Happ, who finished with 12 points and 6 rebounds, fueled Wisconsin on both ends of the floor, as the Badgers finally were having success inside. Give credit to Gard and the coaching staff for their adjustments in the locker room at the half.

Bronson Koenig, who hit a three-pointer in his 40th straight game (new Wisconsin record), was excellent tonight. Koenig scored 19 points and had 0 turnovers, keeping steady control of the ball and scoring efficiently.

Vitto Brown hit a career-high four three-pointers, scoring 14 points. His three-pointers were huge at every moment in the game, as the junior forward is really making a name for himself in Madison.

“You have to take away his [Brown’s] three and make him dribble,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said after the game. “And we did not do that.”

Wisconsin’s leader Nigel Hayes had a steady stat line as well, with 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. Attacking the rim in the second half, Hayes put together a solid effort. Most importantly, he did not have to do it all.

Gard emphasized how important the team’s leadership has been, especially from Hayes and Koenig. He complimented the team’s locker room coming together in the last month and a half.

“You have to be unselfish, and I think this group has really grown in that area,” Gard said.

Winners of 10 of their last 11 games, the Badgers have been on a roll since losing to Northwestern on January 12. Gard has done a phenomenal job piecing together this team, making the right substitutions and preparing his team as well and maybe even better than Bo Ryan did during his tenure.

“Wisconsin’s playing as well as anybody in the league, and they certainly showed that tonight,” Beilein explained.

Wisconsin sure is playing great basketball, now 19-10 and 11-5 in the Big Ten. The Badgers head to Minnesota on Wednesday night at 8:00 PM CT to go for another win with two games left in conference play.

Photo courtesy of Andy Manis, Associated Press.