Forty-one points is a great game for one player. For a team, it”s pretty poor, especially if 21 of those come from one player, but that was all the Michigan basketball team could produce in its 60-41 loss to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin held the Wolverines (3-6 Big Ten, 9-11 overall) to just four offensive rebounds, about 10 under their average.
“We challenged our guys,” Wisconsin coach Brad Soderberg said. “There were some times we blocked out well enough that the ball could have made it on to the court when we got it.”
Rebounding wasn”t the Wolverines” biggest problem, scoring was. More specifically, finding a second scoring threat was biggest reason for losing. Freshman Bernard Robinson scored 21 points for Michigan.
After him, sophomore LaVell Blanchard and junior Chris Young led the Wolverines with 10 and four points, respectively.
But not even Robinson was satisfied with his performance.
“I am not happy with my overall performance,” he said. “I didn”t finish the job on the defensive end. We lost and it wasn”t close.”
While 19 points is not close, it”s one point closer than Michigan”s average loss this year.
“They had trouble fighting through screens,” Wisconsin sophomore guard Kirk Penney said. “When I”d get open, I”d look back for my man to see how open I was and he”d be half the 3-point line away.”
Penney scored 23 points, one shy of his career high.
Wisconsin pulled away from the Wolverines at the 16-minute mark of the second half. Up only two points, Wisconsin went on a 25-7 run to put the game out of reach.
“The execution of the offense really clicked for us,” Penney said. “I don”t know if the defense tired or we turned it up another level, but offensively we really clicked.”
Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe said that Wisconsin was a tough matchup.
“They are arguably the second-best defensive team in our league,” Ellerbe said. “They have five seniors starting and do not make very many mistakes. It”s tough playing against them.
“They are patient and got a lot of good looks. The turnovers they forced gave them even more opportunities to score.”
The patient Badgers used a similar style of game to make a run to the Final Four last season. While Wisconsin was the favorite to win the game, it was a must-win for the Wolverines if they”re going to have a winning record and be eligible for the postseason.
“We are going to try to turn it around on the road and we are going to try to win every last game,” Robinson said. “We aren”t going to quit.”
Young said Michigan quit in its 91-64 loss to Michigan State Tuesday night, a comment that Ellerbe refuted by saying Young did not mean what he said and that the junior had just taken the loss badly. Saturday, Young responded to Ellerbe”s comment.
“I really meant what I said,” Young said. “Even when we were at Duke down 34-2, we were still playing hard and diving on loose balls.”
Young was more impressed with the Wolverines” effort against Wisconsin after addressing them in the lockerroom last Tuesday night. “I hope” they got the message Young said.