No. 9 Wisconsin's third straight loss comes against the worst team in the Big Ten

by 24USATVFeb. 8, 2024, 5 a.m. 23
-

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Forget about poll rankings, potential seeding in the NCAA Tournament and a run at the Big Ten regular-season title.

What is relevant – and mystifying – is that Wisconsin is mired in a stretch of disjointed basketball.

The No. 9 Badgers couldn’t get many stops early, which gave unranked Michigan momentum and confidence, and turned the ball over too frequently. The Wolverines parlayed that early momentum into a 72-68 victory Wednesday night, with guard Dug McDaniel hitting two free throws with 9.9 seconds left to clinch the victory.

Gard highlighted two areas that led directly to UW's downfall – leaky defense and careless ball-handling, particularly early in the game.

The Wolverines hit 7 of their first 9 shots, extended that run to 12 of their first 20, including 4 of 8 from three-point range, in building a nine-point lead in the opening half.

UW, which had just five turnovers in a loss to Purdue on Sunday, had six turnovers in its first 19 possessions against the Wolverines. The Badgers finished with 12 turnovers, on 67 possessions, but the Wolverines turned those miscues into 12 points.

"You give any team confidence,” Gard said, “let alone one that is really searching for good things to happen, and you are asking for trouble.

“You’re not going to have success against anybody when you’re turning the ball over, given the percentage of possessions that we had.

"And we couldn’t keep the ball out of the paint. We did a little bit better job in the second half but (then) we fouled too much to put them at the line and in the bonus so quickly.

"The combination of defensively not getting the ball leveled off and stopped, fouling too much in the second half and the turnovers.

"That is the game right there."

Michigan had lost five straight before beating Wisconsin

How bad of a loss was this? Avert your eyes, UW fans.

Michigan (8-15, 3-9) entered the night having lost five consecutive games and 10 of its last 11.

The only victory in that stretch was an eight-point decision over an Ohio State team that is 3-9 in the league, 13-10 overall and circling the drain.

The Badgers (16-7, 8-4 Big Ten) are mired in a three-game losing streak for the first time this season. The loss dropped UW into third place in the league, one-half-game behind idle Illinois (17-5, 8-3).

The Illini play Saturday at Michigan State and UW plays Saturday at Rutgers (12-10, 4-7).

Michigan led for 33 minutes 1 second and overcame 48-44 deficit in the second half.

"We can’t be starting the game trading baskets because it gives them confidence on the offensive end," forward Tyler Wahl said, "and it doesn’t set the tone for how we’ve played basketball at this program forever."

Aside from the turnovers and shaky three-point shooting (5 of 19), UW showed improvement on offense. In general, UW settled for fewer long two-point shots or early three-pointers.

"We were better than we’ve been," Gard said, "but (still) not good enough."

AJ Storr, who missed 11 of 15 shots in the loss to Purdue, hit 7 of 14 shots Wednesday. He hit all five of his free throws and finished with 20 points.

Chucky Hepburn hunted his shot more and hit 2 of 3 three-pointers and 6 of 11 shots overall en route to scoring 17 points. The missed three-pointer came in the final minute with UW down, 69-66.

Max Klesmit (10 points) was the first option but wasn't able to get free.

"Chucky got stuck with the ball," Gard said.

Wahl contributed 12 points, four rebounds and two assists but Steven Crowl, limited to a combined eight shots and nine points in the previous two games, struggled early Wednesday with a pair of turnovers. He got into foul trouble in the second half and finished with three points and four rebounds.

With John Blackwell (hip) limited to three points in 11 minutes, UW’s bench accounted for just six points on 2-for-10 shooting.

Michigan shot 53.8% in the opening half, cooled to 36.0% in the second half but hit 19 of 25 free throws to hold on.

"Defense was the big thing," Storr said. "They were living at the free-throw line. They were just getting into the paint. When you get into the paint you have a lot of options."

Dug McDaniel leads Wolverines with 16 points, 11 in first half

McDaniel, available only for home games because of an academic issue, scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the opening half to spark the Wolverines. He made just 1 of 5 three-pointers but hit 5 of 10 two-point shots, mostly on drives.

McDaniel was able to beat Hepburn off the dribble several times but the help defense wasn't good enough.

"We didn’t change his momentum or change his direction," Gard said. "We were running back, sometimes to a non-shooter, and let the ball keep coming downhill.

"It’s not just the guys that are guarding the ball. This is a team issue that we’ve got to get fixed. … This isn’t a new thing. It has been an Achilles’ heel of ours this year. So, we’ve got to continue to get better at it, consistently better at it."

Big men Olivier Nkamhoua and Tarris Reed Jr., averaging a combined 24.4 points and 14.0 rebounds per game, combined for 20 points and 18 rebounds. Will Tschetter added 11 points and Terrance Williams II hit several big shots late in the clock and finished with 10 points and six rebounds.

"It doesn’t ever feel good to lose three in a row," Wahl said, "especially when we’ve gotten some notoriety on a national scale.

"But there’s going to be ups and down. We’re in down right now and hopefully get out of there quickly."

-

Related Articles

HOT TRENDS

A few thoughts on the Cubs’ re-signing of Cody Bellinger

by 24USATVFeb. 25, 2024, 4 p.m.2
HOT TRENDS

Player ratings: Manchester United 1-2 Fulham

by 24USATVFeb. 25, 2024, 1 p.m.2
HOT TRENDS

PFL Vs. Bellator: Biggest Takeaways From Saudi Arabia

by 24USATVFeb. 25, 2024, 7 a.m.2
HOT TRENDS

Flint City Councilman Eric Mays dies

by 24USATVFeb. 25, 2024, 7 a.m.2
HOT TRENDS

Official Scorecards | Mexico City

by 24USATVFeb. 25, 2024, 5 a.m.2
HOT TRENDS

Prelim Results | Mexico City

by 24USATVFeb. 25, 2024, 4 a.m.2