MADISON – Wisconsin has lost close games to tough teams in every conceivable way this season and last. On Saturday against #2 Michigan, the Badgers turned their losses into lessons, as the Badgers made every big play down the stretch to complete a 64-54 upset in the Kohl Center. The Badgers snapped a two-game losing streak and handed Michigan their first loss since last year’s National Championship game.
Happ finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in another amazing performance, but Wisconsin needed Kobe King, Aleem Ford, and Nate Reuvers to step up down the stretch as they did. The rotation players provided just enough; clutch shooting and defense. Ford had a crucial three and and-one, King had a three, and Reuvers played tough defense including a vicious block off the backboard.
The Badgers defense held Michigan’s two leading scorers, Ignas Brazdeikis and Charles Matthews, to just five combined points. Wisconsin’s defensive effort, the end they hang their hat on, led to one of the biggest wins of the entire college basketball season thus far.
In the second half, the Badgers managed to linger against the undefeated Wolverines. Wisconsin finally broke over the hump and took the lead, 40-39, after Aleem Ford drained his second three of the day.
Just like in the first half, when the Badgers broke through, they went cold. Wisconsin had another drought, this one of four minutes, and turned the ball over four times. Luckily for Wisconsin, Michigan did not capitalize, and Ford ended the drought with an and-one finish to tie the game back up. Ford’s and-one would be the one to get the ball rolling.
Wisconsin’s defense continued to dominate, allowing Wisconsin to grab its largest lead of four points, 48-44, after a Kobe King three that made the Kohl Center erupt.
Michigan head coach Jon Beilein said of the Ford and King threes: “The threes were daggers.”
With just under six minutes to go and coming out of a timeout, D’Mitrik Trice lobbed a pass up to Happ who converted from close, and Wisconsin led by six. The upset was in place.
Moments later, Trice and Happ’s two-man game combined for another big Wisconsin bucket and a Kohl Center frenzy. Trice hit a rolling Happ with a dart off of a pick-and-roll, and Happ threw down a one-hander. The upset seemed probable.
The Badgers struggled on defensive rebounds in the first half; at one point, the Wolverines had as many offensive rebounds as Wisconsin had total rebounds. It came back to bite them late. On a possession up by six with under three minutes to go, Michigan rebounded their own missed free-throw and then rebounded another miss on the same possession. It resulted in a Teske three and it was back to a one-possession game and the upset was back in question.
However, Wisconsin caught a break from Michigan. After breaking the press, Michigan fouled Happ off the ball which was two shots and the ball, leaving Michigan head coach Beilein extremely upset on the sideline.
Happ went one-of-two and made a layup on the ensuing possession to decide things for the Badgers. Just for kicks, Reuvers dunked one on a runout to officially end the game and complete the upset. The Badgers outscored the Wolverines 39-27 in the second half.
“It’s a rule,” Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard emphatically said after the game. “It was in the video. You can’t put your hands on him (off the ball). It was the right call I think.”
Immediately following the end of the game, the Kohl Center crowd rushed the players at midcourt, and the players and crowd shared a dance circle. Different players went to the center under Happ’s leadership, just like during the game.
“It was a happy locker room,” said Brad Davison. “After the last couple of weeks we’ve had…It was a lot of excitement, but we know it’s still January.”
Although Happ had 26 points, Teske deserves credit for making the All-American work. Happ missed 10 shots and Teske had four blocks. Teske also picked up offensive slack as his teammates struggled. The seven-footer led the team in scoring with 15 points.
Milwaukee native Jordan Poole had 11 first-half points on a trip back to his home state. Poole had an impressive array of finishes and jumpers in the first half. He finished with 14 points.
Poole said of the matchup against Wisconsin: “This is kind of a game that I circle on the calendar, and I’m glad that we get to play them again in a couple weeks.”
The Badgers improved to 12-6 on the year, and 4-3 in the Big Ten. Up next, the Badgers play Illinois in Champagne on Wednesday.