Even though Michigan has been on a tough stretch against some of their biggest rivals they look like they are peaking at exactly the right time. After trouncing Michigan State, and earning their first road win over Indiana, all the Wolverines had to look forward to was a meeting with a Wisconsin team who has owned them lately. However, that didn’t stop the Wolverines from coming out and grinding out a 64-58 win. With that win, Michigan now rises to 7-6 in the conference and 17-9 overall.
Zak is back
Anyone who has been paying attention to Michigan basketball knows that Derrick Walton Jr. has been on fire lately. Zak Irvin, on the other hand, has been MIA. He scored just thirteen points in Michigan’s last four games combined. Tonight, in order to win, the Wolverines were going to need him to return to form. He did just that, finishing the game with 18 points, five rebounds, and three assists. A banked in, turn-around three pointer was probably the turning point for him, as he finally saw the ball go in. After that he was hitting his regular midrange shots and added another three-pointer as well. With Walton not scoring up in the 20s again, due to Wisconsin’s tight defense, Irvin stepped back into the spotlight.
Battle of the bigs
Despite Irvin’s reemergence, it was actually Wagner who had the biggest game for the Wolverines. He scored 21 points, including draining three baskets from long range. He also added a highlight reel dunk near the end of the second half that gave Michigan a little breathing room and ignited the crowd. What is more, Wagner was tasked with defending Wisconsin’s stud player, Ethan Happ. For a while it looked as though Wagner may not be up to the task. Happ fought his way to the basket for lay-ins time and again in the first half. He would record 18 points at the half, and looked unstoppable.
Then Michigan switched up their defense on the Badgers. Every time Happ got the ball he was immediately doubled. Sometimes he was able to find the open man with a pass, but there were a few times he turned it over as well. After having 18 at the break, Happ added just four more points in the second half and ultimately fouled out down the stretch. Although it wasn’t just Wagner guarding Happ, he did a great job of denying his opponent the ball and any easy avenues to the basket. While on the other end of the court he scored in bunches.
Of course, we can’t overlook Walton. Despite not scoring in the twenties as he has been doing with regularity, Walton ended with five points, eight assists and five boards as well. And with his first two rebounds of the night, Walton is now in a class all to himself at Michigan. He is the first player to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 400 assists for the Maize and Blue. All while earning another hard to come by win. A great night indeed.
Can Michigan keep the momentum going? And will they get another road win? Five of their last six games are going to be on the road as the regular season nears its end. The Wolverines will travel to face Minnesota on Sunday at 7PM. The game will be on the Big Ten Network. After winning three big games in a row, Michigan will need to bring the energy once again as they look to climb the Big Ten standings and cement their tournament hopes before we turn to March.
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