Badgers shoot down Wolverines with the long ball
Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Juwan Howard admitted he didn’t get much sleep Wednesday night.
The reason? He was too worried about Wisconsin’s outside shooting.
As it turns out, Howard’s concerns turned into a real-life nightmare Thursday as Wisconsin drained 11 3-pointers and defeated No. 19 Michigan, 81-74, at Crisler Center.
“I was right,” Howard said bluntly.
The Badgers (18-10, 11-6 Big Ten) entered Thursday’s matchup with the most made 3-pointers in Big Ten play and with at least 11 made 3-pointers in each of their past four games.
The hot streak continued as guard D’Mitrik Trice (5-for-6), forward Micah Potter (3-for-6) and forward Aleem Ford (2-for-3) did most of the long-range damage.
The Badgers shot 47.8% (11-for-23) from beyond the arc and became the first opponent to make more than 10 3-pointers against the Wolverines (18-10, 9-8), who have excelled at taking away 3-point looks.
Heading into Thursday’s contest, opponents were averaging only five made 3-pointers on 30.3% shooting against Michigan.
"Just not being ready mentally and not communicating well enough,” freshman wing Franz Wagner said of what went wrong. “They move a lot and they move very good off the ball. A lot of back screens, flare screens, stuff like that, so you've got to be ready to switch, to talk, talk when you're not switching. We didn't do that. I wish I had an explanation but that just can't happen.”
While not having junior guard Eli Brooks (broken nose) in the lineup hurt, sophomore guard David DeJulius added the Wolverines simply did a poor job contesting most of Wisconsin’s long-range looks.
“We were scrambling on defense,” DeJulius said. “Coach always talks about 10x communication, so it really had to be 100 because it got to a point where you couldn't even really hear at times.”
Wisconsin was dialed in from the start and made its first three 3-point attempts. But every time the Wolverines made a run in the second half, the Badgers answered back in the form of a 3-pointer.
After Michigan pulled within two shortly after halftime, Wisconsin made four deep balls during a 14-2 run to open a 14-point lead. When Michigan made another push and cut it to six with 8:38 to play, Trice delivering a momentum-killing 3-pointer.
Then when the Wolverines used a 7-0 run to make it 70-67 and were in need of a stop with 3:02 remaining, Trice once again stepped up and drained a demoralizing deep ball out of a timeout.
“He played great,” Howard said of Trice. “He hit some tough shots and some that were contested. He was in good groove all game and it started in the first half when the first minutes he was extremely comfortable.
“We had a miscommunication on some assignments defensively, didn't talk enough out there on the screens. We got caught into the switching game, so it was more of like a lazy defense instead of a team that was more active and playing with more fire and being more elusive out there.”
On the flip side, Michigan’s 3-point shooting was held in check by Wisconsin. The Wolverines tied a season low with three made 3-pointers and attempted a season-low 10 attempts.
"They scouted very well,” Wagner said. “They were ready for kick-outs and I also think they left the basket a lot of times open and (Zavier Simpson) got to the basket, so I think that helps when you try to stop the 3.
“Overall, I think one thing we didn't do as well is moving off the ball on offense and moving the ball as well. A lot of possessions, especially in the first half, we let them off the hook too easy. Just having to guard one play is very easy. Once you get into second and third options, that's when people make mistakes and in the first 20 minutes we didn't do enough of that.”
Brooks missed his first game of the season with a broken nose that he suffered in Sunday’s win at Purdue.
"How it was explained to me was he wasn't feeling well (enough) to go tonight, so kept him out,” Howard said.
Sophomore forward Brandon Johns Jr. got the start in Brooks’ place. It was the fifth starting lineup the Wolverines have used this season.
Howard said Brooks will likely need to play with a mask when he returns but is unsure if he’ll miss more time moving forward.
"I don't know,” Howard said. “I'll find out tomorrow.”
Senior guard Zavier Simpson was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award. Simpson is the only Big Ten player to make the cut.
Four finalists will be announced on March 12 and the winner will be revealed on April 5.
... Thursday marked Michigan's fifth home loss of the season. It's the most losses the Wolverines have had at Crisler Center in a single season since they lost six in 2014-15.
The five home losses are also as many Michigan has had over the past three seasons combined.
… Michigan’s coaching staff and most of the players wore black and pink Jordans and pink socks for the team’s annual Pink Game, which raises awareness for breast cancer.