Game 25: Wisconsin at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt
Michigan vs Wisconsin_29

Wisconsin 75, Michigan 62.  Photo Gallery. Beilein presser. Bo Ryan presser. Player reactions. Box score. Photo: Scott Mapes

Wisconsin has the Big Ten’s best road record during Bo Ryan’s tenure thanks to performances like this.

The Badgers seized Sunday’s nationally televised matinee by the first television timeout. After missing its first shot, Wisconsin made it next six attempts from the field and jumped out to an early ten point lead. The Badgers never looked back.

While Wisconsin executed with ruthless precision in the first half, Michigan made uncharacteristic mistakes. The Wolverines gave the ball away seven times in 28 possessions and allowed the Badgers to rebound 42% of their misses in the first frame. Wisconsin dominated the first frame, extending its lead to as much as 18 points in the first half, and the Wolverines fell too far behind to ever recover.

Michigan played better in the second half, mostly thanks to a heroic 25 point effort from Caris LeVert, and managed to cut the lead to a single possession with 6:16 to play. But the Wolverines could never string together quite enough plays to tie or take the lead. Eventually Frank Kaminsky put the game away, scoring 11 of 14 points during a 14-4 Badger run after Michigan had sliced the deficit to 3 points.


Michigan’s offense got off to a sleepy start, but it was the Wolverine defense that was the problem. Michigan surrendered 1.24 points per possession to the Badgers – its second worst defensive performance of the season. Wisconsin turned the ball over just twice in 60 possessions and hit big shot after big shot.

Michigan managed to fix its problems on the defensive glass in the second half – Wisconsin rebounded 42% of its misses in the first and 14% of its misses in the second –  but it never had an answer for Frank Kaminsky, who scored 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting. The Badgers controlled the tempo of the game and shot 46% on twos and 41% on threes for a solid .509 effective field goal percentage.

Michigan’s offense managed just .69 points per possession in the first half, but bounced back with 1.31 points per possession in the second. It was the second straight game where the Wolverine offense could generate very little in the first half, but exploded in the second. The first half numbers were ugly as the Wolverines had seven turnovers to zero assists and shot just 33% on twos and 29% on threes.

There was no secret to Wisconsin’s defense success – the Badgers maintained the same strategy as the first meeting. Wisconsin deployed the same soft hedge, but did a better job of fighting over ball screens and playing physically against Michigan’s shooters. In the first meeting, Michigan knocked down a bunch of midrange jumpers. This time around, many of those shots went rimming out.

Other than Caris LeVert, Michigan struggled to shoot from anywhere on the floor. Wolverines other than LeVet were just 1-of-10 from 3-point range, with the lone make coming after the game was decided. Inside the arc, Michigan shot just 41% as it struggled to deal with Wisconsin’s physicality and size around the rim.

Michigan was playing with a bit of house money thanks to its quality work on the road, but that good will is gone after this loss. Michigan has played very poorly for three first halves in a row and that’s a scary habit as the calendar moves along. The ability to play from behind is nice – Florida State, Ohio State, etc. – but consistently falling behind is a recipe for disaster.

Michigan State lost to Nebraska at home – after the Michigan score was announced on the Breslin PA system when the teams took the floor – so the Wolverines are tied for first in the league yet again. Michigan has a week off to prep for the Spartans, who travel to Ann Arbor on Sunday for a game that will determine the title favorite with two weeks to play.

Michigan vs Wisconsin_27
Scott Mapes

Player Bullets:

  • Caris LeVert: As he’s done in many Michigan losses this season, LeVert carried the Michigan offense. He finished with 25 points in a lethally efficient 7-of-13 shooting performance.. He was 5-of-6 from long distance, but the one miss was costly as it rimmed out with Michigan trailing by five. LeVert’s two-game averages against Wisconsin were ridiculous this season: 22.5 points and shot 88.9 percent (8 of 9) from 3-point range. Like his teammates, he struggled inside the arc where he was just 2-of-6.
  • Nik Stauskas: Michigan needs to get Stauskas going. Stausaks has dealt with an array of different junk defenses over the last couple weeks, but Wisconsin stuck to its base look today. That’s the same look that Stauskas torched for 23 points in Madison. He’s not going to be superhuman every time out, but he’s lost some confidence. The jump shots will start falling, but Stauskas’s indecision in the passing game is leading to turnovers that he just didn’t make in the earlier portion of the season.
  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson had a lot of comfort with the 17 foot jumper and finished with 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 32 minutes. That’s one of his favorite shots and it’s one that the Badgers pretty much give away, so it was nice to see him knocking them down.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton regressed to the freshman mean: 0 points on 0-of-6 shooting with 1 assist to 2 turnovers. Walton is the one option on the floor for Michigan without the size to rise and fire for those 17 footer jumpers and he struggled to finish at the rim against Wisconsin’s size. Michigan’s guards talked a lot about getting north-and-south against Wisconsin instead of going side-to-side and that’s something that Walton struggles with at times.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan made a critical and-one during Michigan’s second half run, but there’s no hiding the fact that he really struggled against Kaminsky. He did a great job of forcing Kaminsky to catch the ball away from the basket, but Kaminsky was strong with the ball once he caught it.
  • Jon Horford: I thought Horford gave Michigan a nice lift and was surprised to see he only registered 9 minutes in the box score.  Horford finished with 3 points and 6 rebounds (2 offensive) but only took one shot.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin was 10 for his last 17 from three point range before today’s 1-of-5 showing. Irvin just couldn’t find his range and that hurt the Michigan offense which has come to rely on his timely shooting off the bench.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht has provided a jumpstart in a number of home games this year, but never really could today. He finished with just two points on a pair of free throws.
  • kam

    Levert played very well.. if we would have had an average game from irvin or walton we probably woulda won. People acting like caris does too much and stuff well he can at times but most of the time he is the only one who can get his own shot. Nik can but he hasn’t really been able to at recently. He’s extremely young and with 10 more pounds added he will be special next year. Irvin just had an off game and walton just missed good was shocking seeing Morgan not be able to stay infront of a 7 foot guy. thankfully MSU lost. Lets get the next one!

    • guestavo

      We just need to get LeVert into that PG Skills camp and make him watch tons of film on facilitating. His pull-up game and his floater will develop, as well as getting bigger.

      • kam

        Honestly yes.. He will probably get invited into the KD wing camp and i can guarantee he will go to that because KD is his favorite player, BUT if he can get into the Dwill or chis paul camp also that would reallllyyyyy help him.

  • Wayman Britt

    Don’t get me wrong Nik is a very good player, but if UM wants to win the Big Ten and go deep in the tournament he needs to efficiently score 16+ points per game, to balance his poor defense, lack of foot speed and poor rebounding. The other facets of his game don’t seem to make up for his poor offense performance.

    • kam

      i agree. We could ignore it when he was getting 5 amazing assists and 20 points earlier in the year but when he scores 8-14 points on 7-13 shots it really hurts us because he gives up quite a bit on the defensive end. He’s one of my favorite players but he’s gotta score.

      • gobluemd16

        The problem is the offense directly correlates with his defense too. He seems a step slower and just not as in-tune when his offense isn’t going; this is the case with most all players though

        • kam

          Yup and since he’s already a below average defender at best when he becomes a step slower and less focused he’s down right awful and I’m not trying to be mean, just honest. He’s late on close outs and help defense. He turns his head and his defender goes by on a cut. Thats really a huge area for improvement for him. Playing defense hard always.

        • AlwaysBlue

          I find that correlation to be really disappointing. Even if I am to buy that these multiplying poor performances are the results of superhuman defensive efforts, defense and rebounding shouldn’t be impacted. I would hope that he would double down on those efforts trying to contribute.

  • OPD

    Tough game, but Nebraska just sent us a late Valentine’s Day gift! Hopefully the yucky taste of this game will make everyone hungrier next week.

  • gobluemd16

    That first half wasn’t too fun. I knew we would come out much better in the second, which we did, but our defense just isn’t good enough to get enough stops in one half to come all the way back from a 16 point deficit to a team as good offensively as Wisco. I would have liked to see more of Horford and Spike. I thought Jon was really active in his limited minutes and it wasn’t like JMo was playing out of this world. Derrick just seemed really off his game tonight, too. I know Wisco likes to post up their guards, but I think playing Spike more may have helped. Hope this fuels us to bounce back against MSU and take the lead in the B1G title race.

  • Dr_ZC

    Nik seems to avoid the 3-point shot, or he rushes it. Ball was not moving enough for him to be in a good position and square to the basket. I was a bit surprised we played kaminski one-on-one and did not double him down low especially after he burned us a few times.

  • Mattski

    What sticks out for me were a lot of crappy passes, which together might have come close to making the difference by themselves. I usually leap to the players’ defense when fans get down on them, but I was nagged by the worry that the laxness was growing out of over-confidence. Maybe this serves as something of a wake-up call?

  • Chezaroo

    Incredible results today. The reality is, if we don’t play above average on offense we can’t get enough stops to win the game. In our three conference losses our offense was so disorientated it was scary. After that dynamite second half against OSU I thought we hD turned the corner? Starting to wonder if the League will get any teams to the sweet 16 this year. Very competitive, but in all honesty the conference is mediocre at best. I don’t care what the RPI is, I see no teams that have a long tourney run in them right now. Shoot you could make a case that 10 teams could win the BigTen tourney and it wouldn’t be far fetched.

    • JimC

      Yeah we choked today, but sparty choked far worse.

      Seems the B1G has a lot of good teams, but no dominant ones.

    • guestavo

      All of our conference losses are due to offensive rebounding, first and foremost. Teams getting infinite attempts until they score.

      • Chezaroo

        Always a weakness. As you know made shots mask a lot of weaknesses we have. The flow of our offense during our losses and the subsequent stagnation of quality possessions has killed us. Wisky had two more offensive rebounds this game than they had last time ( 10-8 ). More revealing is first half offensive execution that saw us score 19 points, have 7 turns, and record 0 assists. Difficult to win any game with those numbers.

  • ChathaM

    It was a poorly played 1st half by UM, but I think UW deserves more credit than UM deserves blame for this one. I don’t think UW can play any better than they played today. They spaced the floor on offence beautifully all day, were patient, and only turned the ball over twice. Jackson didn’t turn it over at all, which was both surprising and impressive. Jackson is often the weak link in the UW offence, with poor decision making and forced shots (not necessarily turnovers), but he played completely within himself today. They allowed virtually nothing in transition, which limited a key to UM’s attack. They were great, and looked like the top 5 team that they were pre-Christmas. The UW team we saw today can definitely make a string NCAA tourney run.

    I wasn’t surprised that we allowed Morgan/Horford to check Kaminsky with no help. I wouldn’t have predicted that he could score that efficiently in a one-on-one battle. I wonder whether we’ll see a change in scheme if we meet them again in the B1G tourney. The problem with doubling him is that UW can space the floor so well with shooters that we could end up allowing open 3’s instead of contested 2’s. I think I’d play him straight up again, and see whether Frank can do it again.

  • Chris De Sana

    As everyone has mentioned this game especially the first half was a tough one to watch. Our over all defense was just not good which we have seen before but when you combine that with an offense stuck in neutral it makes for a game that for the most part was not competitive.

    The one thing I pointed out during the game was our screens/picks and how poor they are executed, yes our bigs do a decent job at the top of the arc but the rest of the team is horrible. Standing still, wandering around aimlessly or setting week screens/picks will not get it against the better teams in the country. This leads to an offense that should be based around motion and penetration to a glorified one on one contest where the rest of the team stand around watching or waiting for a kick out at the arc.

    If we are going to win the BIG, the BIG Tourney or advance past the Sweet 16 this has to change.