No. 17 Badgers survive, top Michigan 68-64
MADISON, Wis. — The first 34 minutes Tuesday night were nothing special for Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig. The final 6 more than made up for it.
Koenig scored 16 points, 10 in a key run that turned the game around, and No. 17 Wisconsin survived a scare from Michigan 68-64.
“I kind of just told myself to keep staying aggressive and I’ve taken over games before,” said Koenig, who was 1 for 5 from the field before the stretch run. “I knew I was capable of it, and I just needed to stay confident and stay on the attack.”
For a while, it seemed like no one would step up for Wisconsin (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) after Michigan (12-7, 2-4) put the Badgers on the ropes early in the second half.
Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ went to the bench with his third foul early and could only watch as the Wolverines went on a 17-2 run that put them up 38-30. Even after Wisconsin tied the game at 43, the Wolverines hit 3s on consecutive possessions to seemingly regain control with 6:29 left.
Then Koenig took over.
Zak Showalter got the run started with a tough putback before Koenig reeled off the next 10 points over a 2-minute stretch. He scored on Duncan Robinson with a nice reverse to tie the game, dropped a 3 from well beyond the arc and then hit another from the corner, and suddenly the Badgers were up 55-49. Nigel Hayes added a 3-pointer to cap the run for a 58-49 lead.
The Wolverines clawed their way back one last time. After Hayes missed two free throws, Zak Irvin hit a 3 to cut the lead to 66-64. But Koenig knocked down two free throws right after with 4 seconds left to put an end to the threat.
Hayes and Vitto Brown each scored 13 points for the Badgers, while Irvin scored 20 points to lead Michigan.
Defensively, the Wolverines gave Wisconsin fits for much of the game. Wisconsin’s 26 first-half points were their third-lowest of the season, and the Badgers hit just 1 of their first 7 shots to open the second half as Michigan went on its run.
But then Michigan started to run into foul trouble. Averaging just more than 14 fouls a game, best in the nation, Michigan was whistled for seven fouls a little more than 5 minutes into the second half. Michigan ended up committing 21 with D.J. Wilson, Moritz Wagner and Derrick Walton all fouling out.
“It’s all confusing. Confusing,” Michigan coach John Beilein said of the foul trouble. “We lead the country in not fouling. It’s confusing what happened, so we’ll just let it go.”
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said getting to the bonus so early allowed the Badgers to score with the clock stopped at the free throw line until the field goals started to fall.
“There was a lot of bumping and grinding in the paint and beyond. You just have to be able to play through it,” Gard said.
Michigan: Illinois’ Maverick Morgan questioned Michigan’s toughness after the Illini beat the Wolverines 85-69 on Jan. 11, calling them a “white-collar team traditionally.” Going into the Kohl Center and pulling off the win would have gone a long way to putting that notion to rest.
Wisconsin: It isn’t often someone has to take this team and put it on his shoulders. Koenig again showed he can be that guy.
HARD TIME MAKING IT HAPPEN
Happ scored 11 points for Wisconsin, just two off his season average. But he was 5 of 13 from the field and was limited to 27 minutes due to foul trouble. Gard sensed Happ was tentative at times after Wilson blocked his first shot attempt to open the game. Happ then opened the second half missing consecutive bunnies, the second again blocked by Wilson. “At times I thought he rushed and just was worried about getting rid of it,” Gard said.
Michigan: The Wolverines host Illinois on Saturday, their second meeting in a span of 10 days.
Wisconsin: The Badgers travel to Minnesota on Saturday.