Nik Stauskas scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half, including a late step-back 3-pointer and six free throws to hold off Wisconsin. (Andy Manis / Associated Press)
Madison, Wis. — This time, Michigan wasn’t done in by a 3-pointer in the final minute against Wisconsin.
Instead, the Wolverines hit the crucial 3-pointer in clutch time — and held on for a thrilling 77-70 victory over No. 3 Wisconsin on Saturday night before a sellout crowd at the Kohl Center. It was Michigan’s first win at Wisconsin since 1999 — breaking a streak of 11 straight losses in Madison — and the highest-ranked team the Wolverines have beaten on the road, surpassing the win over No. 5 Duke in 1964.
Nik Stauskas scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer with 48.2 seconds left that pushed the lead to four. He added six free throws in the final 25 seconds to help seal the victory for Michigan (13-4, 5-0 Big Ten), which kept pace with Michigan State as the only two unbeaten teams left in the conference. They play in East Lansing on Saturday.
Coach John Beilein downplayed the significance of the victory and the various streaks it ended against the Badgers, including a 5-17 record in the series since the last win in 1999.
“I don’t get into too much of that stuff. You have to get your road wins somewhere and if you get four or five a year, you’re really in good shape in the league,” Beilein said. “It’s another road win and whether they come here or somewhere else, I think that’s great media talk, but it’s about where’s your program at the end of the year and how many (road wins) can you get during the year.”
Last season, Michigan fell at Wisconsin in overtime after giving up a game-tying, half-court 3-pointer by Ben Brust at the end of regulation.
This time Michigan finished the job, after shooting 61 percent in the first 20 minutes and building a 15-point lead midway through the second half.
Caris LeVert keyed the offensive assault with 20 points, seven rebounds and four steals. He hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 17-8 surge to start the game and added seven points in the last 5:10 of the half, including a steal off the Badgers’ Frank Kaminsky, which he converted into a three-point play.
“It’s a huge win for us, especially to stay undefeated in Big Ten play,” LeVert said. “We really came to play today.”
LeVert, who was guarding Brust on the fateful play last season, redeemed himself Saturday with a flurry of drives to the basket on the pick-and-roll. The focus this year was on finishing out the win and not having a replay of last-year’s late-game heroics.
“(I thought about the play) when it was the late-game situation,” he said. “We didn’t want to have any more breakdowns like we did last year. We did a good job of staying focused.”
Wisconsin (16-3, 3-2) trailed 66-53 with 8:06 left after LeVert hit a basket, but erased the deficit with a 15-5 spurt, ignited by a 10-0 run. Brust (14 points and eight rebounds) made a basket that cut the deficit to 68-67 with 1:52 remaining, but Stauskas answered with a step-back 3-pointer to push the lead to four.
From there, the lead didn’t get below three, as Stauskas hit all six free throws down the stretch for the milestone win.
“After the loss we had last year — we thought we had that win and for them to come back in overtime and beat us — it feels good to come back and get a win this year,” Stauskas said. “Defensively, we’ve been doing a lot better closing out games, where before we were just giving up easy baskets that killed us.”
Glenn Robinson III added 14 points. Jordan Morgan added six points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
The Badgers, who set a school record with their 16-0 start, have lost two straight. The comeback attempt fell short, but coach Bo Ryan said the defense wasn’t good in the second half.
“Any time you wipe out a lead like that and get it to one, I’d do backflips — if I could still do them — to be honest with you,” Ryan said. “We hadn’t done anything yet. You’ve made a move, but a lot more possessions were coming.”
Michigan next faces No. 14 Iowa on Wednesday at Crisler Center before the showdown at No. 4 Michigan State on Saturday.