By Everett Cook, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 15, 2013
CHICAGO — This game, unlike the last time the Michigan and Wisconsin men’s basketball teams met, didn’t have heroics. It didn’t have a last-second buzzer beater or a photo finish.
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What it did have was two entirely different halves.
Michigan (12-7 Big Ten, 26-7 overall) couldn’t overcome a massive second-half push by Wisconsin and fell in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament to the Badgers, 68-59.
The first half was about as bland a half of basketball as Michigan has played this season. There were a couple big, athletic plays — namely a half-court heave from sophomore guard Trey Burke to guard Tim Hardaway Jr. that the junior caught high above the rim before finishing the alley-oop — but points were few and far between. Michigan’s 20 first-half points marked its lowest scoring half of the season, but if possible, Wisconsin’s offense looked even worse.
The Badgers couldn’t buy a made basket, shooting just over 17 percent from the field in the first stanza, half of Michigan’s 34 percent. Nothing was falling, especially during a scoreless five-minute stretch, while the two teams combined to shoot 2-for-18 from 3-point range.
The two teams also combined for 14 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, which didn’t help to boost offensive numbers on either side.
It looked like Michigan would be without Hardaway for the remainder of the half, and potentially the game, after he fell hard on his left ankle after missing a short jumper. Hardaway returned less than five minutes later, though, fighting through what was officially announced as a sprained left ankle. After the game, he said the ankle was stiff, but that it wasn’t too serious.
The second half was a completely different animal.
“In the first half, we were playing pretty good defense overall, and it was an outstanding first half, “ said freshman forward Mitch McGary. “In the second half, I don’t know if we got bored or something, but we just weren’t communicating as well and they were getting too many open looks. They caught fire.”
It took Michigan more than five minutes into the second half to record a field goal, and Wisconsin found offensive success by feeding forward Ryan Evans in the paint and finally getting some 3-pointers to fall. The Badgers shot 36-percent from 3-point range in the game, including six made 3-pointers in the second half — a far cry from their 2-for-13 first half from deep.
After scoring just 17 points in the first half, Wisconsin shot over 60-percent from the floor in the second half en route to a 51-point half — the Badgers’ highest-scoring half of the season.
“It was incredible how a team doesn’t shoot that well in the first half, then all of a sudden scores 51 in the second half,” Hardaway said. “It was a mixture between them running a great offense and us giving up easy ones for them. It’s tough when all those shots are going down, and (we’re) trying to fight back but it’s too late.”
The way that the game was going offensively, even a lead as small as six felt large, but the offensive tempo started to pick up a bit. In the middle of the second half, the lids started to come off the rims, and the teams started to actually trade baskets for the first time all game.
It looked like Wisconsin was going to pull away with about six minutes left in the game, when a 3-pointer in the corner by guard Ben Brust gave the Badgers a nine-point lead. After that shot, though, Michigan went on a 9-0 run to get back into the game, with McGary sophomore point guard Trey Burke scoring all nine points.
But Wisconsin kept making their shots and didn’t give Michigan a chance to get back into it.
“It's just we have so many — there's so many things you have to continue to get better at and all it takes, a team like this, it isolates you so much, it takes one breakdown here or there and they're scoring points,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “The second half they scored at will.”
After playing two games in two nights, it looked like the Wolverines were starting to fight fatigue during Wisconsin’s offensive blitz, especially on defense. Wisconsin’s offensive style is to pass the ball around over and over, using every second of the shot clock to find a perfect look.
“Whatever you do to try and fight (fatigue) it’s always going to come back and bite you a little bit,” said freshman forward Glenn Robinson III.