Michigan Basketball Looked Weird Late Against Wisconsin

As time was winding down in Michigan basketball’s upset bid against Wisconsin, the Wolverines relied on a different player to get the job done.

When Michigan basketball has needed a big shot the last two seasons, everyone’s money has been on Zak Irvin to take it. And for good reason: He usually does, for better or worse.

Irvin has taken 236 shots this season. Derrick Walton Jr. is second in that category at 165. So you get the idea. Irvin shoots a lot, especially in crunch time.

But when the Wolverines needed to climb out of a hole on Tuesday night against Wisconsin, it wasn’t Irvin who tried to get things going. It wasn’t even Walton, who does get in the mix most of the time. Instead, it was Moritz Wagner.

After Bronson Koenig hit his second straight layup to tie the game at 49 with 5:16 to play, Michigan was fully in a mode of having to stave off the Badgers, and then before long they were having to come back.

Each of Michigan’s next four possessions ended with Wagner one way or another. He missed consecutive 3-pointers, missed the front end of a one-and-one, and then turned the ball over. Following that, Nigel Hayes got a lucky bounce on a 3-pointer to give Wisconsin a 58-49 lead.

Wagner has been a significant part of this season’s team. He’s the stretch 5 that John Beilein has spent years praying by his bedside about. After Tuesday night, though, it’s safe to say Wagner isn’t yet the player Michigan can go to late in a game when it needs something big.

He’s been useful plenty of times when the Wolverines need a bucket to stop the bleeding or keep a hot streak on offense, but those aren’t late-game situations.

Wagner spent a lot of the second half in foul trouble and eventually fouled out with 1:13 to play. Starting two possessions before that, Michigan went back to something at least similar to what it normally does with Walton hitting a 3-pointer, his first shot attempt since the 7:46 mark.

By the time the Wolverines got back into their regular groove, which worked, it was too late. The lead Wisconsin built during the Wagner stretch was just enough to stave off Michigan.

Wagner does seem to be the type of player who can be a go-to shooter late, but considering what Irvin and Walton have done in the past, coupled with the first few possessions that didn’t work at all for Wagner, it’s easy to say that was the wrong approach.

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