Michigan holds on for 77-70 win over Badgers
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Step back, dribble between the legs and fire away.
Nik Stauskas played it cool in front of a raucous road crowd late in the second half to hit a clutch shot that helped Michigan hold on for a rare win at Wisconsin.
Stauskas scored 23 points, including his key 3 with less than a minute left, and the Wolverines fended off a late surge for the 77-70 victory Saturday over the third-ranked Badgers.
Stauskas said his first thought was to go to the rim, but that defender Nigel Hayes was overplaying him.
"He kind of slid forward a little bit and I was open for 3 and I just tried to be aggressive and shoot it," Stauskas said.
Caris LeVert added 20 for the Wolverines (13-4, 5-0 Big Ten), who celebrated a victory in Madison for the first time since 1999.
But wins usually don’t come easy at the Kohl Center for any team, and the Badgers (16-2, 3-2) made it difficult for Michigan in nearly overcoming a 15-point deficit.
Wisconsin went on a 14-2 run late, and Ben Brust’s putback got them within 68-67 with about 2 minutes left.
But after whiffing on a 3 from the right wing, Stauskas hit his step-back 3 from the left side to give Michigan a 71-67 lead.
"That step back is so fast, and that release is so fast," coach Bo Ryan said. "He’s quick, he’s like a cat."
Josh Gasser had 16 points for the Badgers, who lost their second straight after a school-best 16-0 start.
"Kid just made a great play," Gasser said about Stauskas. Gasser, Wisconsin’s best defender, said he was supposed to be covering him, but a switch ended up with Hayes guarding on the play.
Wisconsin’s hopes of another nail-biting win over Michigan were dashed. Last year, Brust hit a shot from just inside midcourt before time expired in regulation, then hit a 3 with less than 40 seconds in overtime to give Wisconsin a 65-62 victory.
No such luck this year.
Stauskas added four foul shots in the final 24.7 seconds to seal Michigan’s seventh straight win. He had 16 in the second half.
"This game wasn’t going to be over until that buzzer went off and we had the win," coach John Beilein said. "That was a great shot by Nik, but that’s a lot of time left still for them to win the game."
The Wolverines benefited from the cushion built from a first half in which they shot 60 percent. That’s especially impressive given it was against Wisconsin, perennially one of the league’s best defensive teams under coach Bo Ryan.
But defense was a problem again for the Badgers in their second straight loss after allowing Indiana to shoot 51 percent earlier in the week.
Ryan liked the effort for the most part. The Badgers credited their opponents for making their share of tough shots. Michigan got good looks inside early with crisp interior passing, though Ryan said he was happy overall with his team’s ball-screen defense.
But it was two 3s by LeVert in the first half that especially frustrated Wisconsin’s coach.
"Sometimes when you’re trying to fix something, guys aren’t quite sure and you just have to keep working through it," Ryan said.
Still, the Badgers came back, bolstered by boisterous students back in town for the spring semester. The Kohl Center was rocking after the Badgers’ late run, during which Michigan at one point missed four shots and committed two turnovers.
Hayes’ short jumper got Wisconsin within six with 4:45 to go before Brust put back his own rebound to get Wisconsin within a point.
That’s when Michigan turned to Stauskas. His first 3-point attempt glanced off the rim but Michigan retained possession after a foul was called on Gasser.
The ball went back to Stauskas, who shook off Hayes on the perimeter and coolly hit his 3 for a late four-point lead.
"We’re going to win this game and we’re going to win the game by being aggressive and if you’re afraid to shoot it, you’re afraid to take it at them, then let’s get (you) out of the game, is the message," Beilein said. "And nobody checked out."
Glenn Robinson III added 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting for Michigan, while Brust finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Michigan also took advantage of uncharacteristically sloppy play by the usually savvy Badgers, stretching a five-point halftime lead to as much as 15 midway through the second half.