Wisconsin upsets Michigan in B10 tournament
Mar 15, 2013 at 4:38p ET
Sadly for the Wolverines, the Big Ten then forced them to play the second half of the game.
After scoring 17 points in the first 20 minutes, Wisconsin put up 51 after intermission and knocked Michigan out of the conference tournament with a 68-59 victory.
"I don't know who invented the idea of halftime, but I want to buy them a gift," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said on the game broadcast. "We had two different teams tonight -- one in the first half and one in the second."
You have to give the Badgers some of the credit -- they knocked down every shot they saw in the second half -- but the Wolverines still deserve a good share of the blame. With Wisconsin staggering around the floor in the first half, throwing up brick after brick, Michigan completely failed to take advantage.
The Wolverines only led 20-17 at the half, missing a perfect chance to bury Wisconsin before it could get rolling. As many teams do, and as they themselves had done last month, The Wolverines fell into playing the same ugly style of basketball that Bo Ryan has perfected in Madison.
The problems started with Jordan Morgan, who has regressed badly since his ankle injury. Although he appears to be moving without pain, he has been unable to hang on to the ball in the paint -- a major problem for Michigan on both ends of the floor. Against Wisconsin, he played poorly at the start of both halves, turning the ball over three times without getting up a shot, and ended up with just eight minutes of playing time.
That meant 23 minutes for Mitch McGary, who didn't seem to have his usual energy after playing 23 on Thursday night against Penn State. In that game, he had saved the Wolverines with a first-half double-double, but he looked slower against the Badgers, and Jon Horford didn't help off the bench.
McGary and Horford's struggles led to a limited post presence on the offensive end, and big trouble on the defensive end. Wisconsin came out for the second half with a simple offensive strategy -- pound the ball to Ryan Evans inside and let him find the right play. Morgan might have been able to stop that, but it worked perfectly against McGary and Horford. Evans finished with 12 points and six assists, many of them setting up open 3-pointers by Ben Brust or Mike Bruesewitz.
With the inside-out game providing the Badgers with easy points, Michigan needed offense from someone other than Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., but no one stepped up. McGary did finish with nine, but Glenn Robinson III scored only eight, missing all four of his free-throw attempts, and Nick Stauskas ended up with four and failed to make a 3-pointer.
"We did a good job of fighting back, but the shots just wouldn't fall," Burke told the media after the game. "Maybe, next time, they will."
To make a run in the NCAA tournament, the Wolverines will have to find more ways to score, but that isn't the biggest problem. They need to stop the defensive slump that has lasted since the beginning of February. After starting the regular season 20-1, Michigan finished the year with six wins in their final 12 games, and only a few moments of Burke's brilliance kept it from being much worse.
"We are continuing to grow as a defense," he said. "We need to refocus and regroup or, sooner or later, we're going to be done."
The loss shouldn't hurt Michigan badly enough to cost them a spot in the Auburn Hills pod next weekend, but they will certainly go into the Big Dance with a lot of question marks. The 20-1 start and the first No. 1 ranking in 20 years turned into the fifth seed in the Big Ten tournament and a quarterfinal exit. Add in the memories of last season's first-round defeat at the hands of Ohio, and even if the Wolverines do end up in front of a friendly crowd at the Palace, they can't be entering the tournament with much confidence.