Madison, Wis. — Michigan coach John Beilein admitted he’s going to need to brush up on the rulebook.
With under a minute to play and the Wolverines down three, Beilein instructed freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis to foul Wisconsin big man Ethan Happ.
But when Brazdeikis fouled Happ away from the ball, he was whistled for a Flagrant 1 intentional foul and the call mystified Beilein, who went fuming down the sidelines and demanding an explanation.
It played a part in a critical late-game swing as Wisconsin was awarded two free throws and possession of the ball with 51 seconds remaining. Happ split the free throws and put back his own miss to start a 7-0 run Wisconsin used to close the game and hand No. 2 Michigan its first loss of the season, 64-54, Saturday at the Kohl Center.
Afterward, Beilein said he never received any clarification from the refs and he told Brazdeikis to foul Happ, a 49-percent free-throw shooter, regardless if he had the ball or not.
“I'm going to have to be schooled up in that because in the past officials have come to me on the sidelines and said, 'Are you going to intentionally foul?' And I'll say, 'Yeah, we're going to intentionally foul.' And then we intentionally foul,” said Beilein, who added he did the exact same thing on Saturday.
“'Are you going to foul?' And I said, 'Yes, we're going to foul.' That's intentional."
Brazdeikis originally tried to foul on Happ when he caught a pass near midcourt as Wisconsin broke Michigan’s press. But after there was no call, Brazdeikis went over and slapped at Happ’s arms to draw a whistle while the ball was on the other side of the court.
“We have never done that off the ball but, yeah, you can do that. I mean, I've done it before,” Beilein said. “I think Iggy was probably telling them, 'I'm fouling him, I'm fouling him.' The way I interpret the intentional (foul) is when you put two hands on him, you grab him and you're fouling him. It's not swiping at his arm, so I've got to be schooled up on that.
“Apparently, it's something new to me that I have to educate myself in because I told him to foul him off the ball. No different than fouling him on the ball."
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard disagreed and said following last season there was a point of emphasis for fouls when there’s no play on the ball.
"It's a rule. It's in the (officiating instructional) video. Can't do it,” Gard said. “Anything when there's not a play on the ball like that, it's a rule. I thought it was the right call."
There’s no specific section in the NCAA rulebook for intentional fouls. Rather, it’s a variation of a flagrant 1 personal foul that includes “fouling a player clearly away from the ball who is not directly involved with the play, specifically designed to stop or keep the clock from starting.”
Like Beilein, Happ said the refs didn’t say anything to him or explain why Brazdeikis was called for an intentional foul instead of a common foul, which would've resulted in only two free throws since Wisconsin was in the double bonus.
Regardless, Happ thought the correct call was made under the guidelines.
“I mean, I wasn't in play with the ball. It wasn't like I was setting a ball screen or anything where the ball was anywhere near me,” he said. “I think by definition in the rulebook that's an intentional foul.”
Sophomore guard and Milwaukee native Jordan Poole carried Michigan’s offense in the first half, scoring 11 of the team’s 27 first-half points from all over the floor.
But in the second half, Poole could only muster a 3-pointer to finish with 14 points on 6-for-15 shooting in 37 minutes.
“I felt like they changed their coverage from dropping a lot to meeting at the line, but we didn’t knock down shots in the second half,” Poole said.
According to Wisconsin guard Brad Davison, foul trouble also helped the Badgers slow Poole's roll over the final 20 minutes.
“We know he's a great player and he's handful to stop, but when you make great offensive players defend you can get them in foul trouble and maybe wear them down a bit,” Davison said. “He's a really good player and we tried to chase him around screens and run him off the 3-point line and still gave up one in the second half. I think the biggest thing is we got him in foul trouble and when he's not in the game he can't score.”
After having his return to his home state spoiled in front of a large contingent of friends and family, Poole is eager for the teams’ second meeting on Feb. 9.
"This is kind of a game I had circled on the calendar,” he said. “Being able to see that we get to play them in a couple weeks again, especially at home, is something that I'm definitely looking forward to.”
Several Wolverines had trouble with their footing at the Kohl Center, slipping and sliding on the court throughout the game.
The Wisconsin basketball and hockey teams share the arena — meaning there’s ice beneath the hardwood court surface — and the men’s hockey team hosted a game on Friday night.
It was particularly problematic in the first half when junior guard Zavier Simpson fell untouched on numerous occasions, including on a drive midway through the period when he wiped out trying attack the basket and was called for a traveling violation.
Even at the start of the second half when the teams switched baskets, Brazdeikis lost his footing while trying to pivot near the baseline on Michigan’s first offensive possession and fell out of bounds with the ball.
The Wolverines tied a season-high with 16 turnovers, with redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews, sophomore forward Isaiah Livers, Poole and Simpson responsible for three apiece.
“I mean, yeah, but we can’t make excuses for it,” Teske said. “We had some dumb turnovers, and that’s not us. We take care of the ball and we don’t usually make those mistakes."