WASHINGTON, D.C. – Less than an hour before the NCAA Tournament bracket was revealed, the No. 8 seeded Michigan Wolverines finished off their tournament of destiny with a 71-56 win over the No. 2 seeded Wisconsin Badgers, 71-56.
It was not suprise with how Michigan has played all tournament, but this one started off fast. Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman kicked off the scoring for the Wolverines, and Ethan Happ answered right back with a bucket of his own.
Everyone was active early, with Mo Wagner and Happ having a nice battle, as well as an aggressive Nigel Hayes and DJ Wilson. The two athletic big man would go back and forth early, as Michigan led 19-13 at the under 12 media timeout.
After that, it was really just a battle of senior point guards going at it the rest of the first half. When leading 21-20, Michigan’s Derrick Walton, Jr. hit back to back to back threes, putting the Wolverines up 30-20.
Then, Bronson Koenig and the Badgers answered right back with a quick five points of their own, to make it 30-25 with under four minutes to go in the first half.
In an incredibly intense first 20 minutes, Koenig ended the scoring with a rainbow three to end the half, 33-32 Wolverines. Wisconsin’s senior point guard led all scores with 13 at the break, while Walton had 12.
Wisconsin only led for 19 seconds the whole half, but the stats were very tight at the intermission, as seniors Hayes and Zak Irvin also put in eight and nine points, respectively.
The next five minutes were not quite exciting, namely for the Badgers. Michigan got buckets from Wilson, Wagner, and a tough one from Walton to give them 39, while Wisconsin remained at 32 for over five game minutes, starting off the half with six empty possessions.
At the under 12 media timeout, not much had changed. Michigan extended their lead by a point to 44-36, while Ethan Happ ended an eight minute stretch for the Badgers without a field goal, which is pretty incredible actually.
In the next stretch, it appeared Michigan had just about all of the momentum, with an 11 point lead, 51-40, and the crowd resembling a home game for the Wolverines. But just like that, Vitto Brown hit a three, and Zak Showalter got a great steal and fast break layup to make it a 5-0 run for the Badgers.
Zak Irvin really hurt the Badgers in the half, with a couple timely midrange jumpers, his specialty. Things got a little contentious with Irvin and Showalter as the two were fighting for a loose ball, and Irvin fell, only to get back up and be held back by his teammates.
With 3:34 left to go in regulation, the Wolverines led 57-50 after a midrange jumper from Showalter. The rest of the game was all Wolverines, with a dunk of an exclamation point made by D.J Wilson for Michigan.
As fate would have it, Michigan would capture the title, 71-56.