Rapid Reaction: Wisconsin 68, Michigan 59
March, 15, 2013
By Eamonn Brennan | ESPN.com
CHICAGO -- Quick reaction to Wisconsin's 68-59 win against Michigan in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal:
Overview: At their best, the Wolverines are a free-flowing offensive group that pivots on the consistent brilliance of star point guard Trey Burke. At their best, the Badgers milk every second of every possession and restrict any and all offensive freedom with stifling half-court defense.
On Friday afternoon, the latter style won out.
Wisconsin controlled the pace and controlled the game, which allowed them to overcome an ugly 17-point first half (they scored just six points in the first 10 minutes, which is hardly flattering even in a down-tempo game) and keep the game close enough to eventually find their shot and break through in the second half. They did, taking a double-digit lead, and the Wolverines appeared flattened.
Up 56-45 in the second half, with Ryan Evans probing the interior and Ben Brust knocking down 3s, the Badgers looked ready to coast to the finish. (Being down 11 to Wisconsin must often feel insurmountable.) Instead, thanks to Burke's aforementioned brilliance -- including a pair of NBA-ready drives and a nifty dish-and-dunk to Jordan Morgan -- the Wolverines went on a 9-0 run, cutting the lead to two.
Turning point: The Badgers led 56-54 when, at the end of a good defensive possession by Michigan, forward Frank Kaminsky -- no one's idea of a shooting threat off the dribble -- knocked down an elbow jumper with the benefit of a front-iron roll. A couple of fouls later, Wisconsin had rebuilt a five-point lead, and Kaminsky extended it to seven with less than a minute remaining. Michigan didn't go down without a fight, but it did finally go down.
Key player: Brust. The Wisconsin guard knocked down four of his seven threes, three of which came during the second half, and finished with 14 points and (even more impressive for a 6-foot-1 guard) eight rebounds.
Key stat: The Wolverines rely on smooth offensive play generally, but jump shooting specifically. Wisconsin held Michigan to 23 of 57 overall, and just 3 of 13 from three.
What's next: The Badgers move on to face Indiana -- a program they've beaten 11 straight times, including at then-No. 1 Indiana this season -- while Michigan will have some time to rest and prepare the NCAA tournament. The Wolverines won't be thrilled with the loss, of course, but that's a nice silver lining.