A loss to Wisconsin on Friday afternoon in the third round of the Big Ten tournament keeps Michigan squarely on the NIT bubble. In Five Key Plays, we take a closer look at the Wolverines’ near-upset, which ultimately ended in an 11-point defeat.
1) Spike Albrecht gets hot out of the gate
Michigan surprised the Badgers early, jumping to a 13-9 lead and forcing them to call timeout. The quick start was sparked by Spike Albrecht, who had seven points in as many minutes.
The junior guard’s day began with a pick-and-pop straightaway bucket from just inside the three-point arc. A couple minutes later, he scored on the same type of play, passing to Max Bielfeldt, curling around the center and receiving a handoff, and pulling up for an open look — this time, though, it was for three.
Then Albrecht did what he does better than just about anybody: Dribble around several defenders and make something up on the fly. The guard’s eventual made jumper was actually a (somewhat) calculated maneuver, though. Wisconsin switched on a screen in the right corner, leaving Frank Kaminsky on Albrecht. The Badgers center went for a steal inside but was slow to keep up with Albrecht, leaving him open for the shot.
2) Bronson Koenig hits back-to-back threes
Michigan held a five-point lead moments after the under-four timeout, but the Badgers made a quick run to cut their deficit to one. With the Wolverines struggling to score — they’d be shut out for the final 3:35 of the first half — a pair of three-pointers on back-to-back possessions put Wisconsin ahead after what had otherwise been an excellent period for Michigan.
The first trey came over the Wolverines’ zone, but it was actually a solid defensive possession. Nigel Hayes delivered a kickout feed to Sam Dekker, who dished to Bronson Koenig. Albrecht and Irvin were there to contest, but both took a step away at the same time, leaving Koenig with the space to knock down the trey with just five seconds left on the shot clock.
The Wisconsin guard buried another shot from deep moments later, this time following a double team of Kaminsky in the post. It was Beilfeldt’s job to defend Koenig — you can see Albrecht pointing him out as he applied the double — but the center was a step late on the kickout.
The Badgers went just 3-for-11 from three in the first half, yet they entered the break with a five-point lead.
3) Michigan uses 8-0 run to take the lead
There was a lot of fight left in the Wolverines, who eventually got enough stops to chip away at the deficit. With an 8-0 run in a 90-second span, Michigan made it all the way back, taking the lead against the top-seeded Badgers.
The comeback began with a layup from Ricky Doyle, but that play was created almost entirely through Zak Irvin’s pinpoint pass to a cutting Albrecht. The guard was double-teamed down low, so he dropped a feed to a trailing Doyle, who finished off the glass.
Kaminsky missed a makeable layup on the ensuing possession, and Irvin pushed the pace, driving to the short corner and hitting a turnaround jumper. After a steal, a hesitation dribble got the forward to the basket with a chance to give Michigan the lead. The layup was too strong, but Kaminsky’s held defense meant no one was boxing out Aubrey Dawkins, who followed with a putback slam.
The Wolverines then forced Wisconsin into another turnover, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman got to showcase his north-south speed in transition. The freshman didn’t disappoint, finishing with a difficult finger roll to put Michigan up three.
4) Zak Irvin triple ties game at 54
The Badgers responded quickly to Michigan’s run, scoring the next five points to reclaim their advantage. At the under-eight timeout, Wisconsin led, 54-51, but Irvin made sure to keep the Wolverines’ upset bid very much a possibility.
It’s a play that might not have worked four weeks ago. Bielfeldt set a screen and rolled to the basket, and Kaminsky had to respect the possibility of a return pass to the center. Meanwhile, the pick gave Irvin separation from Nigel Hayes, and the Michigan forward launched from deep to tie the game at 54 with six minutes left.
Irvin finished with 21 points and went 3-of-7 from three. Michigan was right there, tied with one of the five best teams in the country with just six minutes to play, but could never grab the game.
5) Wisconsin second-chance buckets ice game
Basketball games can be won or lost by razor-thin margins, much like what Michigan experienced Friday. It couldn’t corral three 50/50 balls, and Wisconsin didn’t pardon, applying the dagger.
With just under four minutes left, Doyle forced Kaminsky into a miss inside, but, despite having Kam Chatman and Aubrey Dawkins in position to grab the rebound, the Wisconsin center managed to rip the ball away from Chatman and make a pass while falling. With Michigan scrambling defensively, the Badgers worked the ball to Sam Dekker at the right wing, and the forward’s open three put them up five.
After Dekker missed a jumper a minute later, Doyle had the rebound in his grasp, but Josh Gasser knocked it out to extend Wisconsin’s possession. Doyle then fouled Dekker inside, and the forward hit both free throws to turn a close game into a seven-point contest with two minutes remaining.
Down five with 80 seconds left, Michigan appeared to have made a big stop on a crucial possession, as Doyle and Irvin forced Kaminsky into a wild shot. But it fell right to Hayes, who finished the layup and effectively ended Michigan’s Big Ten tournament run.