ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Frank Kaminsky might have saved Michigan State’s Big Ten title hopes Sunday afternoon.
Kaminsky had 25 points and 11 rebounds to help Wisconsin beat Michigan 75-62, meaning that the Spartans are still alive even after a bad home loss to Nebraska.
The seven-footer was 10-for-14 on two-point shots, nearly all of them at the rim, and even knocked down a late three-pointer to beat the shot clock. The Badgers outscored Michigan 32-14 in the paint — a decisive margin on a day when Nik Stauskas couldn’t hit a single three.
"We handled that young man one-on-one in the post when we beat them up there, but we weren’t able to get that done at all today," Michigan coach John Beilein said of Kaminsy. "We had to keep helping on him, and he is a very good passer.
"He didn’t get credited for any assists, but his passes out of the post set up some open looks."
Ben Brust and Sam Dekker each added nine rebounds for Wisconsin, while Travevon Jackson had six assists without a turnover.
The Badgers shot 41.2 percent on 3-pointers, which is usually Michigan’s specialty.
"That’s exactly why Wisconsin is so tough," Beilein said. "They have great size, they hit big shots and they challenge you in so many different ways. You have to be on your game, offensively and defensively, if you want to beat them, and we weren’t."
Caris LeVert had a career-best 25 points to give Michigan a chance in the second half, but he didn’t get any help from his teammates. He hit five of his six three-pointers, but the rest of the Wolverines went a combined 1-for-10 on threes.
"He was hitting everything, but who on that team are you going to leave open to double him?" Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan asked. "You can’t not guard Stauskas, Irvin or Robinson."
So the Badgers lived with LeVert’s shooting and focused on stopping everyone else.
Freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr., so impressive in recent weeks, went 0-6 from the floor and had as many turnovers (two) as assists. Stauskas turned the ball over three times and got off only a pair of three-pointers, missing both.
Glenn Robinson III had a very quiet game once again, finishing with 10 points and three rebounds. He didn’t record a single assist or a block.
Even Zak Irvin, who has been a factor off the bench with his outside shot, went 1-for-7.
Until Irvin got hot in the second half, Michigan didn’t looked anything like the team that has won games in Columbus, Madison and Ann Arbor this season. In the first half, they scored only 19 points, trying 22 shots without a single assist, turned the ball over seven times and allowed eight offensive rebounds.
All that means, as long as Michigan State can take care of Purdue this week, the Spartans will come to Ann Arbor next Sunday for what will likely be a one-game playoff for the Big Ten title.
The Spartans appreciated the help, too. The final score of Wisconsin’s victory was announced at the Breslin Center just before tip-off of the Nebraska game, drawing a roar from the crowd.
On the other hand, Michigan has a week off to try to figure out what went wrong against the Badgers.
"We’re going to learn from this," Beilein said "That’s the only way to look at this game. We haven’t done this very often at home, and it is tough to take anything good out of a game like thus
"But that’s what we have to do. That’s why we bounce back so well."
Beilein is right about that. Michigan has lost back-to-back games only once in the last two seasons, but the Wolverines can’t count on statistics next weekend against Michigan State.
"We’ve got a great opportunity," Stauskas said. "We have to come right back out here and prove ourselves."