'Locked-in' No. 7 Michigan swarms, wallops No. 9 Wisconsin to go 11-0
Ann Arbor — Michigan has passed every Big Ten test that’s been throw its way.
A top-10 showdown against No. 9 Wisconsin? The Wolverines checked that off the list Tuesday night at Crisler Center by decimating the Badgers, 77-54, to record their third consecutive win against a ranked opponent.
And once again, the No. 7 Wolverines (11-0, 6-0 Big Ten) did it in forceful fashion, using a 43-6 run over the first and second halves and a tenacious defensive effort to send another statement.
“I know people had questions about us getting too complacent after those two wins (against Northwestern and Minnesota),” said senior forward Isaiah Livers, who finished with 13 points. “Tonight was to show that this is who Michigan basketball is."
After closing the first half on a 14-0 run, Michigan blitzed Wisconsin out of the break and put on an absolute clinic on both ends with a 22-0 flurry. Freshman center Hunter Dickinson had three baskets after a quiet first half. Senior guard Eli Brooks and grad transfer guard Mike Smith each drained a 3-pointer. Senior guard Chaundee Brown provided the exclamation point with an emphatic putback dunk.
By the time Wisconsin guard D’Mitrik Trice snapped the spurt and a scoring drought that lasted over seven minutes with a 3-pointer, Michigan’s lead ballooned to 62-29 with 12:16 to play and the rout was well underway.
A layup from Brown gave the Wolverines their largest lead, 69-29, at the 10:43 mark before they coasted to their first 20-point win over the Badgers since the 1992-93 season, back when Michigan coach Juwan Howard was playing. The 23-point beating was also Michigan's largest margin of victory against a top-10 Big Ten opponent since 1987.
"You definitely don't expect it coming into the game,” sophomore wing Franz Wagner said of the massive run that gave Michigan a 40-point lead.
"I don't know if I've been a part (of a run like that). I've been up 30 before. There have also been games where I've lost a 30-point lead with my team. You don't really think about that. You're just trying to get on to the next play and stay locked in. Keep doing what you did that got you the big lead in the first place and that's how you win games in this league."
The nearly flawless outing came on the heels of a 19-point thrashing of Northwestern and 25-point drubbing of Minnesota. According to Fox College Hoops, Michigan is the first team to win three straight games against ranked opponents by at least 19 points.
By the time the dust settled from Tuesday’s demolition, the Badgers were held to season lows in points (54) and field-goal percentage (30.8%), lost the turnover battle 10-8, and nearly had as many shots blocked (nine) as made 2-point baskets (11).
"I think we've got five players flying around, we've got people that can defend multiple positions," Wagner said. "Wisconsin likes to post up a lot of their players and likes to shot fake a lot so that was the main keys for us defensively.
"We talked about staying in our principles, not allowing easy post catches and I think talking — last year (against Wisconsin) we had a big problem with when we wanted to switch and when we didn't. I think today we did a really good job of that."
Smith had 16 points and six assists, Wagner recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Dickinson finished with 12 points for the Wolverines, who shot at least 50% from the field (51.6%) for the fifth straight game. Fifth-year senior center Austin Davis also returned to action after missing the past five games with a plantar fascia injury in his right foot, chipping in four points in 12 minutes.
Trice scored 20 and Micah Potter had 12 for Wisconsin (10-3, 4-2).
"Our lack of aggressiveness, I thought that was the difference," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "We were not physical enough. They were.
"That flurry toward the middle and end of the first half and into the second half, I did not like how we responded. They were able to put us on our heels and we didn’t respond how we need to respond to it."
Livers came ready to play and was locked in from the start, scoring seven points in the early stages to get the offense going. Meanwhile, while the defense picked up from where it left off last week. Over the first six minutes of the game, the Wolverines recorded two steals and had more blocks (four) than the Badgers had made baskets (three).
Wisconsin relied on Trice and Potter, who were able to cause problems at times, to momentarily pull even before Potter picked up his second foul and the Wolverines’ relentless defense continued to suffocate the seasoned Badgers.
Michigan dominated the final nine minutes of the half to turn a two-point edge into a 17-point advantage. The Wolverines used a string of stops and 14 unanswered points to widen the gap all while Dickinson scored just one first-half basket, which started the spurt.
By the time halftime arrived, Michigan’s lead was 40-23 as Wisconsin was held scoreless over the final 6:19, missed its last eight shot attempts and couldn’t even get a shot off on its final possession, which pretty much epitomized the Wolverines' swarming performance.
"I think the coaching staff and everybody that we see every day does a great job of making sure that we don't get bored with the basics. That was our motto for this week,” Wagner said. “Not get complacent with all we've done because now the season really just started. We've got to keep that in the back of our mind. We're playing great, but I think everybody sees we've still got things to improve upon."