Michigan Can't Dig Out, Drop One to Wisconsin

John Beilein

No. 15 Michigan's first half struggles were too much to overcome as No. 21 Wisconsin walks into Crisler Center and leaves with a 71-59 win that drops the Wolverines to second in the Big Ten.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Wolverines picked the wrong time for a let down.

After picking up a huge road victory at rival Ohio State Tuesday night in Columbus, No. 15 Michigan came home to a feisty, focused and hot shooting No. 21 Wisconsin team that handed the Wolverines a 75-62 loss at Crisler Center.

A disastrous first half on both ends of the floor proved to be too much to overcome.

“They’re a difficult match-up for anybody they play,” Michigan coach John Beilein said afterward. “They show that and their road victories have shown that. And we can’t forget they went 16-0 in non-conference play.

“They just were really good today and we helped them in the first half with our seven turnovers; we can’t do that. We sort of shored that up and once you get down like we got down it’s tough to come back because of their ball control offense, they make timely shots; they’ve got a great plan.”

The Wolverines went into the half trailing 34-19, showing little energy on the defensive end and forging a lack of offensive flow on their way to compiling zero assists through the first 20 minutes of play.

Following the break, Michigan made their run.

Picking up the level of intensity defensively the Wolverines forced quick and tough shots from Wisconsin allowing the opportunity to get out in transition and speed the pace of the game up.

Junior center Jon Horford, who finished with three points and six rebounds in nine minutes of action, believes the difference was in the form of simplicity with the Wolverines team defense.

“In the second half we went back to our old principles and you could see the rhythm come back, see the flow comeback and we made our run,” Horford said. “But Wisconsin, credit to them, they just played better.”

Cutting the Wisconsin lead to nine on several occasions, the Badgers hit big shots in key moments to maintain their lead in the second half led by junior center Frank Kaminsky who put together his first career double double with 25 points and 11 rebounds, dominating one on one matchups in the post.

“Kaminsky was really the only one that really, we did a good job on Hayes but he just dominated our two (big men),” Beilein said. “We didn’t change anything from the first time we played them because I think we had good answers for them but it was just one on one, we didn’t double differently, we didn’t do anything.

“Kaminsky just really played well and credit him. Our post defense is our post defense. They’re going to keep moving and try to do their best but he made some great moves and finished around the hoop.”

Keeping Michigan in the game offensively was sophomore wing Caris LeVert. LeVert scored a career high 25 points to lead the Wolverines, helping trim the Wisconsin lead to as little as three at 52-49 late in the second half.

“We had several actions called for him and there’s several actions that he has the license to do in the middle of a play,” Beilein said. “He’s quick, he can shoot and he uses the ball screen very well.

“I love it, that he gets this because it gives us now three or four weapons to try and score.”

With the loss Michigan falls to 10-3 in conference play, still tied with Michigan State (10-3) a top the Big Ten conference standings.

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