Michigan Wolverines Find New Way to Lose at Wisconsin
The Michigan Wolverines lost to the Wisconsin Badgers 64-59 on Tuesday evening
The Wolverines continue to find novel ways to lose close games against decent opponents. Last Saturday it was Michigan not scoring over the final five minutes in a heartbreaking loss to Indiana. On Tuesday Wisconsin failed to make a shot from the field over the game’s final 10 minutes and 27 seconds. But that still wasn’t enough for UM to pull out a desperately needed win.
Call it bad luck, or poor fundamentals, or a lack of effort. The reasons don’t particularly matter now, because Michigan’s hopes of making the NCAA Tournament are effectively dashed. The Wolverines are 14-12 overall, and 8-7 in the Big Ten.
Maybe they can get in with a 5-0 finish to the regular season, including wins at Rutgers, Illinois, and Indiana. Perhaps they can go on an epic run and win the Big Ten Tournament. Or maybe the NCAA will suddenly expand the tournament to 128 teams.
Here are three takeaways from Tuesday night’s game:
Michigan center Hunter Dickinson wore a black ski mask as the team walked into the Kohl Center on Tuesday night. But Dickinson wasn’t trying to hide after infamously calling Wisconsin “scumbags” on a podcast. No, according to the TV broadcast, he wore the mask was because the Wolverines planned to steal a win. Mission failed.
To be fair, it wasn’t really Dickinson’s fault. He was in full wrestling heel mode again, energized by the jeers of the Wisconsin faithful and gleefully gesticulating after made baskets. But the Badgers did an excellent job of denying him the ball in the second half, and he finished the game with just nine shots.
Dickinson scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and he also made several key plays down the stretch, including a smothering block with 90 seconds remaining. He followed that with a nice pass to seemingly get redshirt freshman Will Tschetter the game-tying layup. But Tschetter was fouled on the shot and subsequently missed both free throws. The Wolverines never had another chance to tie the game.
Death by Glass
The Badgers used screens and sharp cuts to carve up Michigan defenders for most of the night. Freshman guard Connor Essegian slithered past defenders at will to lead all scorers with 23 points. Meanwhile, junior center Steven Crowl racked up 11 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists, using pinpoint passes to find open men.
Michigan could have weathered that storm, thanks in part to 10 missed Wisconsin layups. But the Badgers, who came into the game ranked 333rd in the country in offensive rebounds, grabbed 14 offensive boards on the night. The Wolverines also committed seven more turnovers than Wisconsin. That’s how a team that shoots 32.8% from the field and goes 10 minutes without a basket still finds a way to win.
Kobe Bufkin’s disappearance in the second half last Saturday was one of the key reasons Michigan lost. There was no disappearing act from the sophomore guard on Tuesday, as he went 9-for-15 from the field and 3-for-4 from deep to lead the Wolverines with 21 points. It was his fourth 20-point effort of the season.
Bufkin did commit five turnovers, but he also went on a personal 7-1 run in the middle of the second half. The Wolverines fell behind 54-42 after a Juwan Howard technical foul. But two layups and a three from Bufkin forced a Wisconsin timeout, and the score remained tight for the rest of the contest.