Forward leads Badgers past 'M'

Daily Sports Editor
Published February 17, 2005

MADISON — Mike Wilkinson must really like playing against Michigan.

But that’s not saying much these days. The Wolverines (3-9 Big Ten, 12-14 overall) lost their ninth straight game last night, 76-50, to Wisconsin at the Kohl Center.

Wilkinson led the Badgers (8-4, 17-6) with his second notable performance against Michigan this season, 22 points and nine rebounds.

“(The Wolverines) have some good big guys that play hard all the time,” Wilkinson said. “It’s just a challenge. It’s fun to go out there against good guys, good competition, and that’s what they are.”

Wilkinson thrashed the Wolverines in Wisconsin’s 72-61 win at Crisler Arena on Jan. 22, when he scored 28 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

But the Badgers didn’t need that kind of performance from Wilkinson last night in a blowout where they led by as much as 30.

Wisconsin also had plenty of help puncturing any dream Michigan had of an upset. Four Badgers scored in double figures. Forward Zach Morley finished with 12 points, while Ray Nixon and Alando Tucker each chipped in 10 points.

Forward Courtney Sims led all Michigan scorers with 16 points, 12 of which came in the second half. With his eight rebounds and three blocks, the sophomore had the most productive night of any Wolverine by far, considering he played just 26 minutes because of foul trouble in the first half.

Sophomore Dion Harris added 15 points to Michigan’s cause on 5-of-17 shooting. It was his third straight game scoring in double figures.

But beyond the duo of Sims and Harris, Michigan had nothing to withstand the onslaught of the Badger juggernaut.

“We’re just not playing well as a team,” Sims said. “Individually, some people step up certain games, but, as a team, we’re not playing well.”

The Wolverines were beaten in nearly every statistical category, but most notably in the rebounding department, where the Badgers cleared the boards 39 times in comparison to Michigan’s 28.

“When your team is struggling, it seems like those kind of things become very hard things to do and accomplish,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “Making a simple play of grabbing the ball and getting possession of it wasn’t as simple as you’d like to think it is.”

Wisconsin’s inside game caused the most damage to the Wolverines, especially in the first half. Wilkinson and Morley scored 13 and 10 points, respectively, pushing the Badgers to a 37-17 lead at halftime.

Michigan’s ability to counter was hurt early on, when junior forward Chris Hunter aggravated a left ankle injury that forced him to miss five games earlier in the season. He did not return for the second half.

“He’s been battling a lot of injuries all year, and, at halftime, he indicated that he was still hurt,” Amaker said. “So we opted to go in a different direction with Courtney Sims and held Hunter out for the second half.”

Outside shooting on both ends of the court stunned Michigan early. The Badgers went 6-for-11 from beyond the arc in the first half while Michigan failed to convert from 3-point land, going 0-for-8.

The Wolverines shot just 8-of-24 from the field in the first half for 17 points, the fewest they have scored in a single half this season. The number could have been worse were it not for a Harris jumper as the halftime buzzer sounded.

Michigan may soon be getting help in the form of junior Daniel Horton, who practiced with the team Tuesday for the first time since he was suspended indefinitely. Amaker said his playing status is yet to be determined.

“We’re going to keep trying to find ways to end (the losing streak),” Amaker said. “We’re not going to walk around with our heads down. It’s a tough time right now for our team.”