1) Michigan 7-0 run in the first half cuts Wisconsin’s lead to one
With just under seven and a half minutes to go in the first half, Michigan found itself in a familiar place: down early on the road. The Wolverines were losing 24-16 and in desperate need of a spark offensively. However, it ended up being a strong defensive play that spark the Michigan offense, courtesy of Tim Hardaway Jr. After the junior missed a mid-range jumper, Wisconsin grabbed the rebound and got out on the break. Hardaway smartly hustled back to the defensive end and when he saw Sam Dekker closing in for layup on the left side he made a terrific defensive play, rotating over and drawing the charge. On the ensuing Michigan possession, Hardaway provided what he did for the Wolverines all game long: offense when they needed it most. Hardaway sees that Jared Berggren is playing off, guarding against the rolling screener, and he makes the open shot. On Michigan’s next offensive possession, Nik Stauskas beats his man to the paint and we get to see Mitch McGary’s expanding game. The freshman receives the pass from Stauskas and spots up for a long two, looking confident doing so. McGary’s come a long way this season, but among his most dramatic improvements has been his offensive versatility. On the final play of the sequence, Tim Hardaway Jr. makes another excellent decision on offense, finding Stauskas wide open for a 3-pointer on the secondary break. By the end of this run, Michigan was down just one and in great position going into the close of the first half.
2) Trey Burke makes two buckets at the end of the first half for the lead
One of Trey Burke’s mot obvious attributes is his ability to keep his dribble alive and keep in control when forcing his way into the lane. Burke has an ability to control multiple defenders at the same time, and he does this by using his body as a shield for the ball. On the first play in this sequence, the sophomore uses a screen from Max Bielfeldt to establish position in front of his defender. From there, he basically boxes his man out while waiting for Mike Bruesewitz to commit to McGary. When he decides Bruesewitz is sufficiently occupied, Burke steps into a floater and cashes it. It’s a play few other players can make, but we’ve come to expect it from Burke. Burke’s shot to finish out the half was achieved in much the same way as his first. Coming around a screen by Bielfeldt, he again establishes his body as a barrier between his defender and the ball. But after his defender gets back into position, Burke loses him with a spin move. This time, Bruesewitz comes up to help but is partially blocked out by Bielfeldt, allowing Burke to drain a fade away over his outstretched hand. These two makes had a particularly high degree of difficulty, and they allowed Michigan to go into the locker room at the Kohl Center up a point at halftime.
3) Trey Burke hits a jumper with 1:06 left
Unfortunately, we have to skip over the vast majority of the second half in order to get to the plays that were truly “key” down the stretch. That includes this huge jumpshot by Burke with Michigan up just one with a little over a minute left. We’ve pointed it out a million times but it bears repeating: Trey Burke is a master at creating space to shoot — the fact that he able to consistently get shots up over taller players despite his size is a testament to his one-on-one ability and creativity. With Traevon Jackson guarding him, Burke makes a move to the free-throw line, jabs in with his right foot, and hits a fadeaway jumper. While this move looked eerily similar to the step-back 3-pointers he has a penchant for hoisting, this shot seemed much more reasonable given the distance. The fact is, sometimes Burke needs to create his own shot. Sometimes, it doesn’t look pretty. But he makes them too often for any Michigan fan to have too many complaints. This make put the Wolverines up three points with just over a minute to go, and ended up being crucial to forcing overtime.
4) Tim Hardaway Jr. hits a 3-pointer to put Michigan up three with three seconds left
While most Michigan fans were surely dreading yet another Trey Burke step-back 3-pointer, that’s not what the Wolverines pulled out of their sleeve on this possession — though it was close. After a particularly deflating play — an and-1 dunk by Jared Berggren to tie the game — Michigan had to come up with something to win this one in regulation. Tim Hardaway Jr., who was tremendous on offense all night, ended up playing the hero, if only briefly. Hardaway starts the play in the corner. After Michigan holds the ball to run the clock down to about nine seconds, Hardaway cuts up and receives the ball from Burke. Hardaway gets a screen from Mitch McGary to try to lose Bruesewitz, but the redhead stays close. As Hardaway moves toward the top of the key, he sets his body for the shot. Bruesewitz comes across as Hardaway fires and sinks the shot. It was definitely a tough look, and probably not exactly what Michigan was looking for, but Hardaway made the most out of his small window of opportunity. He squared up, elevated nicely and actually got off a good-looking shot. On the broadcast, Dan Dakich was dumbfounded as to why Wisconsin didn’t foul when the Badgers had three fouls to give. In the post game, Bo Ryan claimed that his players had been trying to foul but the fouls weren’t called. For a brief moment, Hardaway was the hero. That is, until the very next possession.
5. Ben Brust makes a half-court heave to force overtime
In a play gut-wrenchingly reminiscent of Evan Turner’s buzzer-beater to beat Michigan in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament, Wisconsin found a way to score on its final possession despite having only 2.4 seconds to do so. There has been a lot of speculation as to what Michigan should have done in this situation, and it starts with the fact that, just like that game against Ohio State, John Beilein didn’t put anyone on the inbounder. Mitch McGary instead was back deep. Beilein in the post-game presser said McGary was back there because he wanted to defend against a long pass down the floor. The next critique is regarding the issue of not fouling in that situation. John Beilein stated clearly, both on the telecast and after the game, that he told his players to foul. The plan was to foul — Ben Brust, who received the ball rather cleanly at midcourt, had simply turned the corner too fast on Caris LeVert for the freshman to be able to get a hold of him. Since Brust never had to break his stride to receive the ball, he was never fouled and he made the shot just past half-court. The reality is that these things happen. Maybe there were a few decisions here and there that could have caused the play to go in a more favorable direction of Michigan, but this is college basketball and sometimes players hit near-impossible buzzer-beaters.
Bonus. Mitch McGary’s missed layup, Ben Brust’s 3-pointer sink Wolverines
We don’t mean to pick on McGary, who had an awesome game — the freshman racked up 12 points, eight rebounds, three steals and a block — but his missed layup with two minutes left in the overtime period was a back-breaker. His miss was also indicative of the shortcomings of nearly all of Michigan’s players around the rim. John Beilein counted 14 points in missed layups for the game, with several coming in the overtime period. Michigan got some good shots, it just couldn’t capitalize. Trey Burke went 0-of-4 on layups, Max Bielfeldt and Jon Horford both had significant issues finishing at the rim, and even Hardaway, who had a great game, struggled converting in the paint. In the end, it was plays like those that made it feel as though Michigan blew a great opportunity to win this game. It felt as though the Wolverines were letting Wisconsin stay in the game, and they paid for it. While Michigan wasn’t good offensively in overtime, Wisconsin wasn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse, either. The Badgers’ lone make came from Ben Brust from beyond the arc with about 40 seconds left in the period. Caris LeVert made a crucial freshman mistake on the play, letting his hands down just long enough for Brust to get a shot up over him. That was all the room Brust needed, and Michigan couldn’t answer.