In a half that was dominated by Wisconsin on Saturday, the Badgers’ Jason Bohannon added the exclamation point when he launched a shot just beyond halfcourt right before the buzzer sounded which ― to the shock and frustration of the Michigan men’s basketball team ― somehow found the bottom of the net.
It was just another blow to Michigan in Wisconsin’s thorough beatdown of the Wolverines this past weekend. Not only did Wisconsin shoot almost 70 percent in the first half, but the Badgers had plenty of luck on their side too.
Wisconsin made 9-of-13 from behind the arc in the first stanza, many of which were contested. But the halfcourt shot, which came on the coattails of a late Michigan run to cut the Badger lead to 11, was the proverbial nail in the coffin.
“It was just one of those days,” junior guard Manny Harris said. “Still, we were only down 14 at halftime and we’ve come back from leads like that before. We’ve just got to keep working.”
After falling to a 15-point deficit with five minutes to play in the first half, Michigan started to rally back, led by its two stars ― Harris and senior forward DeShawn Sims. Right before halftime and with the shot clock turned off, Michigan dribbled out most of the remaining time, then the Wolverines found Sims in the post who connected on a layup with two seconds left.
Instead of running out the last two ticks, the Badgers inbounded the ball to Bohannon, who crossed halfcourt and launched a prayer from the right sideline that inexplicably went in.
It was enough to drain the confidence of the Wolverines and end the half on an even more sour note.
“The last-second shot there at the end of the half was a perfect example of what was happening,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “Nobody scores over 50 points on (Wisconsin), so when you see (them score) 40 points at halftime, you know you’re in trouble.”
While the Wolverines could have recovered from their bad luck, a 14 point lead against the best defensive team in the conference was a tough task from the onset of the second half. Michigan scored just 18 points after halftime, when Wisconsin completely shut down the three point shot and held Sims and Harris to a combined seven points in the half.
“That was really frustrating, but a shot like that can do either two things,” freshman guard Darius Morris said. “It can either just really demoralize you or it can give you a spark and I think it was a little half and half for us.”
Rebounding woes: While rebounding is often a struggle for an undersized team like Michigan, it was even more obvious Saturday. Not only did the Badgers dominate on the offensive glass, they extended multiple possessions to more than 60 seconds, tiring the Wolverine defense and opening up the opportunity to exploit a tired team.
Late in the second half, Wisconsin drew down the shot clock until it nearly expired. Even though they missed two consecutive shots, the Badgers picked up both offensive rebounds and held onto the ball for nearly a minute and a half. The Badgers were unable to convert on that possession, they did an effective job of running out the clock and quickly putting the game away.
“It could have been a two- or three-point game at halftime very very easily because we forced them into so many shot clock situations,” Beilein said. “But they missed seven shots they got five offensive rebounds, that takes your heart away. Now you’re guarding them for 60 seconds. We guarded them a couple of times for 60 or 70 seconds. That’s really hard to do.”
Another letdown: While Michigan runs much of its offense from behind the arc, attempting almost 25 3-pointers per game, the Wolverines attempted less than half that amount on Saturday, taking just 11 shots from downtown.
The Wolverines made both of their two 3-point attempts in the first half, but their number of looks were limited by the aggressive Wisconsin defense. Every time Michigan tried to get open off the screen, the Badgers’ man-to-man defense was up to the task. The problem was even more pronounced in the second half, when Michigan missed all nine of its 3-point attempts.
“They chase you off every screen, and they were going to take that part away from us,” Beilein said. “We weren’t trying to not shoot (threes). We were trying to get open ones; we just couldn’t get any. They are just a very good defensive team, both individually and as a team.”