UM's NCAA hopes dim in latest loss to Wisconsin
Madison, Wis. — Michigan could have used some long-range help against Wisconsin on Sunday.
The Wolverines matched a season-low with five 3-pointers in a 68-57 setback at the Kohl Center, and Michigan coach John Beilein said part of the problem is the squad is missing its veteran leadership.
“Really you go back to Ohio State — the same thing — people aren't helping at all,” Beilein said. “You've got to have a really good passing team to have the timing to do that. Since we lost Spike (Albrecht) and Caris (LeVert), those are our two elite passers. So the timing has to be perfect, everything has to be perfect.
“Duncan (Robinson)'s still learning to play without the ball when people are not leaving him. So it's been difficult for us to get those shots off. We're trying to adjust, and we've just got to do a better job of it.”
Known for their 3-point prowess, the Wolverines only shot 5-of-13 from long range in the setback. They entered the game shooting 39.8 percent from 3-point range, which ranked 13th nationally among NCAA Division I teams.
Junior guard Zak Irvin had a team-high 14 points and added eight rebounds for the Wolverines, who led 30-29 at halftime.
Robinson, a sophomore forward, and junior guard Derrick Walton each scored 10 for the Wolverines (20-10, 10-7), who put their NCAA tournament hopes in jeopardy.
Sophomore forward Ricky Doyle scored 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting off the bench.
Irvin had 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 15 minutes. Irvin scored seven as Michigan opened the game with a 9-2 surge.
But redshirt freshman forward Ethan Happ thwarted Michigan's attempt to pad its halftime lead, stealing the ball from Irvin with 28 seconds left in the first half. But Happ's 40-footer hit the glass and Michigan went into the locker room with a 30-29 lead at intermission.
Happ finished with 12 points for the Badgers, who shot 49 percent overall (24 of 49) from the field, and outrebounded the Wolverines 33-20.
Junior forward Nigel Hayes scored 16 points and junior forward Vitto Brown contributed 14 for the Badgers, who clinched their fourth consecutive win against the Wolverines.
The Badgers made 7-of-9 field goals — including six straight baskets — to open the second half and never looked back. Wisconsin (19-10, 11-5) secured its third straight victory, and have won 10 out of its last 11 games.
Irvin said the Badgers' defensive pressure led to the second-half collapse, and long-range looks weren't much of an option throughout the game.
“When they went on their run, we couldn't get going anything,” Irvin said. “They were getting some easy baskets and some tough threes, too. It was tough for us and we weren't able to bounce back.
“(Three-point) shots haven't really been falling for us, so we're trying not to settle as much as we used to in in the past. So, we've been trying to get to the basket, but obviously we were struggling to make layups and tough twos, which they force you to do. But we've got to be ready against Iowa.”
Wisconsin has won four straight in the series against Michigan.
The Badgers, who have won 10 of their last 11 games, have compiled a 12-5 record since interim coach Greg Gard took over when Bo Ryan announced his retirement on Dec. 15.
Meanwhile, LeVert, a senior co-captain, traveled to Madison, but as expected, did not play. LeVert, a 6-foot-7 guard who suffered a lower left-leg injury in the Big Ten opener on Dec. 30 against Illinois, missed his 15th game of the season. LaVert sat on the bench with the Wolverines.
The Wolverines, who are on spring break in the coming week, have five days off until they host Iowa at Crisler Center in the regular-season finale. The Big Ten tournament starts March 9 in Indianapolis.
Tamira Madsen is a freelance writer