Madison, WI – Michigan and Wisconsin squared up for a matinee meeting in Madison on Sunday. The Wolverines entered the game playing better of late, with a crucial blowout victory at home over Purdue and with a road win against Iowa which will both look good for their NCAA tournament resume. Head coach Juwan Howard has seen much improvement from his team as they are starting to resemble more of last season’s team as well as their preseason expectations. The Badgers came into Sunday’s game with a road win at Assembly Hall against Indiana, where future NBA lottery pick, Johnny Davis put on an offensive clinic in the final minutes of action and scored his team’s final 13 points, finishing with 30. Davis replicated that same type of performance against Michigan and led the Badgers to an impressive 77-63 victory.
The Wolverines got to work early in the first half and demonstrated solid fundamentals from their frontcourt in Hunter Dickinson and Moussa Diabate who shared the ball well with one another on some high-low play sets. Davis would then respond with nice playmaking of his own, dishing the ball off to center Chris Vogt and then hitting a mid-range fadeaway jumper over a Michigan defender. As the first half progressed, the two Big 10 rivals would trade blows back and forth as Michigan continued to utilize their size and physicality, by collecting offensive rebounds and keeping possessions alive. The Wolverines would finally capitalize on a second chance opportunity from 3-point territory as freshman shooting guard Caleb Houstan would hit a trifecta from the top of the key making it only a one-point deficit with just under two minutes remaining. The 3-pointer would be the first make for either team in the half, as both struggled to get much going from the outside. Dickinson would then take advantage of the smaller Brad Davison guarding him and connected on an and-one opportunity. Davison made up for the previous defensive possession with a steal, which would then result in a pair of free throws from Jahcobi Neath. The game was tied 31 at intermission.
Michigan opened the second half on a 7-2 run, which was ignited by a Dickinson left hand jam and an Eli Brooks layup off of a steal in transition. The Wolverines took a 38-33 lead with only 1:30 off the clock in the second half. Head coach Greg Gard called timeout to wake his team up from halftime and the Badgers answered with a 3-pointer from Davison, who had been cold most of the day. The shot began a 14-1 run for Wisconsin who would take a 47-41 lead at the 12-minute TV timeout. Another Davis mid-range jumper highlighted the scoring run and he’d continue his offensive groove in the next few minutes, rattling off the next 11 points for Wisconsin. The Davis flurry of offense gave his team a 15-point advantage at the 8:52 mark (56-41). The 6’5” shooting guard further proved why he is a highly touted NBA prospect, displaying the ability to create his own shot and by attacking the basket with good body control and craftiness around the rim. The Badgers’ defense picked up during this stretch as well and denied Dickinson the opportunity to do much around the basket. The Wolverines also continued to shoot poorly from 3-point territory and could not manufacture points as effectively as they did earlier. Chucky Hepburn made it difficult for the Michigan’s backcourt to get much penetration and showed why he is regarded as one of the better on-ball defenders in the Big 10. Hepburn then finished his day with a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock that would empty the bench for Wisconsin, as Gard brought in the reserves to the finish the last minute of action to secure the 77-63 win.
Wisconsin had an all-around efficient game on both ends of the court. The Badgers shot 50 percent and connected on 15-of-16 free throw attempts. Michigan ended the game shooting 39 percent and shot an abysmal 4-of-25 from 3. Davis finished with 25 points and had another nice game in the rebounding category, collecting six. Dickinson led the way for the Wolverines, scoring 21 points.
Despite the hard-fought battle between both teams, the postgame saw an altercation between Howard and Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft. Howard struck Krabbenhoft on the head and both teams got into a scuffle near the Michigan bench because Howard did not appreciate Gard calling a timeout with 30 seconds remaining and after Gard put his hands on him.
Wisconsin (21-5, 12-4) will head to Minnesota on Wednesday to keep their Big 10 title hopes alive. Michigan (14-11, 8-7) missed a chance to get a key win for their NCAA tournament resume but will host a hot Rutgers team in their next game for another opportunity.