The No. 2 Michigan Wolverines looked to overtake the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils after their loss to the Syracuse Orange earlier in the week. All that stood in their way was a full house at the Kohl Center and a struggling Wisconsin Badgers team.
The perfect start to the season was ended in Madison due to a 64-54 loss to Wisconsin. Forward Ethan Happ scored twenty-six points and added ten rebounds and seven assists. The Michigan Wolverines were led by Center Jon Teske’s fifteen points. Here are some of the takeaways from Michigan’s first loss of the season.
Playing to the Level of the Competition
There are two different Wolverine teams this season. One that shows up against ranked opponents, and one against unranked opponents. The ranked team can beat anybody and could easily become a national champion and has almost no flaws. The team that shows up against unranked opponents plays down to their competition and always looks flat and a shadow of their self normally. Poor shot selection, settling for bad shots, and a lack of urgency are all characteristics of this team. This is worrying for the early rounds of the Big ten tournament and March Madness but there’s no need to worry as Beilein has proven time and time again that he can get Michigan to beat anybody.
Against ranked opponents, Villanova, North Carolina, Purdue, and Indiana, Michigan absolutely dominated and were super enjoyable to watch. The beat these teams by 27, 17, 19, and 11 points respectively. These wins will help big time on selection Sunday and many people are predicting Michigan to be a one or two seed.
Against their unranked opponents, Michigan has had a horrible habit of not putting away teams. Michigan had the lead against Wisconsin and wasn’t able to keep it or extend it at all. Additionally, against Northwestern (first meeting), Western Michigan, and Wisconsin, Michigan didn’t show up to play at a level they should have winning by two against the Wildcats, winning by eight to the Broncos and losing by ten to the Badgers.
Poor Shooting Night
When someone thinks of John Beilein’s Michigan teams, you think of three-and-D. Both were lacking in this game and that is one of the reasons Wisconsin was able to deal the Wolverines their first loss of the season.
The Wolverines shot a woeful 28% (5-18) from three and 41% (22-54) from the field. As this team has shown many times it can’t capitalize from the free throw line shooting 45.5% (5-11) against the Badgers. Ignas Brazdeikis came into the game averaging fifteen points a game but scored none Saturday. There were many Wolverines who couldn’t find their stroke from deep with Livers shooting 1-3 from deep, Simpson was 1-3, Poole 1-5, Brazdeikis 0-3, and Teske was the only good shooter tonight hitting 50% of his threes (2-4). Normally this wouldn’t be a problem as the Wolverines would simply drive to the basket but there was something off. In clutch time at the end of the game, no one had the courage to pull the trigger on a quick shot which ate away at precious minutes.
Michigan lives and dies by the three normally and they sure died Saturday. On poor nights from deep, usually Michigan’s stellar defense can lock down the opposing team, but they were carved open by Wisconsin’s passing. The Badgers had seventeen assists which shows how well they were passing the ball and hitting open shots. Wisconsin shot 45% from the field, 39% from deep, and 78% from the charity stripe, all percentages better than Michigan. Also, Wisconsin had less turnovers and fouls to strengthen their case in upsetting the No. 2 Wolverines.
No Answer to Happ
Wisconsin Badger Ethan Happ ran wild in the paint and scored 26 points on 12-22 shooting. Almost every basket of his was a layup or dunk as every shot he took was either in the paint or a free-throw.
Happ was able to score at will in the paint whether it was Ignas Brazdeikis, Charles Matthews, Isaiah Livers or Jon Teske guarding him. Happ and Wisconsin were playing like Blake Griffin and the Pistons due at times, they were giving the ball to Happ and he was going to drive and score or get to the line, and everyone knew it. John Beilein is one of the best coaches in basketball, especially on the defensive end of the floor. A player scoring twenty-six points and being as dominant was something unseen from the Wolverines recently.
What has to be questioned the most is that Happ shoots 49% from the free throw line and was only fouled twice making only two of those four to match his season average. Hack-a-Shaq was invented to stop the dominant Shaq in the paint so why wasn’t this enacted upon Happ? Mathematically he would have scored half of the points he did, and this could have kept Michigan in the game.
On January 22, Michigan will host the Minnesota Golden Gophers (14-4), and Wisconsin will travel to Illinois to take on the Fighting Illini (5-12) on January 23.
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