Miscommunication dooms Wolverines down the stretch against Wisconsin

BY RUTH LINCOLN
Daily Sports Editor
Published March 1, 2009

MADISON — With 30 seconds left in regulation and his team down four points against Wisconsin, Michigan men's basketball junior DeShawn Sims launched a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

Andy Manis/AP
Wisconsin's Jason Bohannon, right, grabs a defensive rebound away from Michigan's Zack Novak (0) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, March 1, 2009, in Madison, Wis. At left, is Wisconsin's Jon Leuer. Wisconsin won 60-55.

The forward made one from the same spot at Crisler Arena late in Thursday's game when Michigan upset then-No. 16 Purdue.

But Sims’s shot clanked off the rim, all but sealing the Wolverines' 60-55 loss yesterday at the Kohl Center.

And the attempt wasn’t exactly what Michigan coach John Beilein had hoped for.

“Once (Sims) catches it, he’s actually been very successful to get a guy coming off for a shot,” Beilein said. “I was saying ‘patience’ to him in his ear. He thought I was saying ‘take it.’ So, I’ve got to use a different word than patience.”

That kind of miscommunication was common all afternoon.

Wisconsin (9-7 Big Ten, 18-10 overall) and Michigan (8-9, 18-12) both entered the game teetering on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Badgers now have an edge, and the Wolverines have just one regular-season game left to boost their résumé, Saturday at Minnesota.

Despite all of Michigan's mistakes, the team came close to squeaking out the win.

“We had some lapses on execution, with getting offensive boards, but we were right there,” said fifth-year senior guard C.J. Lee, who finished with nine points, three rebounds and four assists. We’ve just got to make that play, get that rebound, get that stop. We haven’t been able to get that play on the road right now.”

Just like when the two teams met in a 73-61 Wisconsin win Dec. 31 at Crisler Arena, the Badgers jumped to a quick start, scoring on nine of their first 10 possessions.

The Wolverines edged their way back, hitting five 3-pointers in the first half.

Michigan led 34-32 at the half but fell to another Badger run at the start of the second half and never fully recovered.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan’s teams grind opposing defenses down with slow, meticulous basketball, often shooting with single digits left on the shot clock.

“When you get down to one of Bo’s teams, being down by five or seven is like being down by 15 to other teams,” Beilein said.

When Michigan pulled within a possession down the stretch, the Badgers used their superior size to grab an offensive rebound or force a turnover.

Sims and Harris led Michigan with 17 and 15 points, respectively, and collected a combined 15 rebounds. But the duo didn't even come close to matching its combined 56-point explosion against Purdue on Thursday.

“You’ve got to find a way at the end to gut out a win, and that’s basically what it is,” Harris said. “We need to be poised and find a way at the end to gut it out.”

Michigan has just two road victories in 10 away games. With a bye this week, the Wolverines have one more opportunity to earn a quality road win. When Michigan heads to Minnesota (8-8, 20-8), it will again be a battle of the bubble teams.

“We can practice pretty hard, get guys running … and get us ready for this game, because it is going to be a war,” Lee said.