Ben Brust planted two daggers in Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes Saturday.
The Wisconsin junior drilled a 40-foot miracle to send the game to overtime, then hit a game-winning triple late in the extra session as unranked Wisconsin knocked off the No. 3 Wolverines 65-62.
With Indiana and Florida losing this week, the Wolverines were poised to regain the No. 1 spot. It looked like they were there when Tim Hardaway Jr. knocked down a 3-pointer to give Michigan a 60-57 lead with 2.4 seconds left in regulation.
The Wolverines had two fouls to give, but Brust took the inbound pass, dribbled past freshman Caris Levert and swished a jumper from one step past the midcourt line.
“You can’t control someone making a halfcourt shot like that, but we were supposed to foul,” Beilein said on his postgame radio show. “We wanted to foul (Brust) as soon as he got the ball, because we had two to give, but we didn’t get there.”
Michigan then struggled to score in the extra session, including Mitch McGary missing an open fast-break layup and Trey Burke missing a pair of drives to the hoop.
“We threw away too many possessions and we missed too many layups,” Beilein said. “We couldn’t finish a breakaway, and how often do you see Trey miss two of those?”
With the game tied at 62, Brust hit a much shorter 3-pointer with 43 seconds left.
Trey Burke had a chance to force double overtime, but his triple try went in and out with five seconds left, and the Badger fans were rushing the floor.
“I told our guys that I was proud of the way they played, because in this conference, you are always going to have tough games like this on the road,” he said. “We made some mistakes, and we can’t fix that, but we can control how we respond from this, and what our attitude is going forward.”
The Wolverines now have three conference losses. Michigan State and Indiana both have two, while Ohio State and Wisconsin join Michigan with three. The Hoosiers and Buckeyes play Sunday in Columbus, while Michigan State plays later Saturday at Purdue.
If Ohio State were able to defend home court and beat Indiana, Michigan would have a chance to create a five-way tie for first place by beating the Spartans Tuesday night at the Breslin Center.
But to do that, they will have to find a cure for a suddenly stagnant offense. The team that could seemingly save themselves from any situation with their balanced scoring attack has now turned into Burke and Hardway trying to carry the team by themselves.
Against the Badgers, those two combined for 37 points, but the rest of the starting lineup — Glenn Robinson III, Jon Horford and Nik Stauskas — combined for only 11 points on 17 shots.
For Robinson and Stauskas, it might be a matter of hitting the freshman wall. They are 24 games into the season, with more than a month to go, and neither has looked nearly as good as they did early in the season. Saturday, Stauskas hit just one of five 3-pointers, coming up short multiple times, while Robinson doesn’t seem to have the same spring in his legs that made him a regular on highlight reels.
Mitch McGary, Michigan’s third key freshman, had 12 points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes, but he was forced to carry the inside load by himself for most of the game. Jordan Morgan sat out while trying to recover from a sprained ankle, and starter Jon Horford only played seven minutes. Little-used reserve Max Bielfeldt played 18 minutes, but finished with two points and four rebounds.
After back-to-back overtime games, Michigan will barely have time to rest before Tuesday’s trip to East Lansing. A loss there could cripple the Wolverines’ chances at a second straight Big Ten title and a top seed in the NCAA tournament.