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March 14, 2008
No. 8 Wisconsin wins ugly over Michigan
» MORE: Rivals.com Daily Bubble Watch | Drive for 65: Forecasting the Field | Play Tourney Pick'em
INDIANAPOLIS — No. 8 Wisconsin takes such pride in its defense, the Badgers actually get mad when their opponent makes a basket.
They had to be downright giddy after this one.
Joe Krabbenhoft scored 12 points, Michael Flowers put on a defensive clinic and the Badgers made Michigan work for every one of its rare baskets Friday in a 51-34 victory that was the lowest-scoring game in Big Ten tournament history.
"What we do starts with our defense," Krabbenhoft said. "Every single little bucket they get, we're upset because we know defensively we're that good. We can stop them every time."
Well, maybe not every time, but pretty darn close.
The Badgers held the ninth-seeded Wolverines (10-22) to a lowly 20 percent from the floor, and Michigan finished with more turnovers (14) than field goals (10). Michigan's 34 points were the fewest ever for a single game in the 11-year history of the Big Ten tournament, and the final score "beat" the 89 scored by Michigan and Minnesota in the first round last year.
Leading scorer Manny Harris didn't look like the same player who scored a career-high 26 at Wisconsin in January and nearly led Michigan to an upset, and Flowers can take credit for that. A member of the Big Ten's all-defensive team, he was relentless in his defense of Harris and never let him take an easy shot.
"Nobody ever wants to get scored on, and that's what I pride myself on is really stopping my opponent and causing him havoc and just disrupting the flow of his game," Flowers said. "Doing that ultimately benefits my team."
Harris finished with only four points on 1-of-12 shooting, and had more turnovers and fouls (three each) than field goals. Anthony Wright led the Wolverines with 11 points, and reserve Zack Gibson finished with nine.
"Wisconsin certainly did a great job defensively against us today," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "They've done that. We're not the lone rangers in this. I was really proud of the way we defended. ... We held a very veteran team to a low score, but we could not throw the ball in the ocean today."
It was Wisconsin's eighth straight win, and its 21st in the last 23 games. The Badgers (27-4) will play Michigan State in Saturday's semifinals.
"We did a good job defensively, and that kept us in the game," said Jason Bohannon, who scored seven points for the Badgers. "Offensively we're going to have to pick it up the next couple of games."
Though the Badgers had five players score seven or more points, including 11 from Flowers, they only shot 34 percent for the game. Brian Butch, the Badgers' leading scorer, was limited by foul trouble - he played 16 minutes - and finished with a season-low one point.
"We're not worried about who goes out and is the leading scorer," said Krabbenhoft, who thinks "high school" might have been the last time he led his team in scoring.
"We're just worried about the team being up at the end of the game."
Wisconsin started strong, making five of its first eight shots to race to a 10-0 lead in the first 4 minutes. But it cooled off from there, and allowed Michigan to make the game seem much closer than it was.
Despite making only three of their first 12 shots of the game, the Wolverines managed to pull within three on Wright's 3-pointer with 19:15 left to play. But Flowers made a 3, Marcus Landry scored six straight points and Wisconsin was back up 35-23.
One of Landry's baskets provided the only true highlight of the game. He scored on a rim-rattling dunk on a behind-the-back feed from Bohannon, drawing a roar of appreciation from the large contingent of Wisconsin fans in the crowd.
"We can do that when we get opportunities," coach Bo Ryan said. "In the Big Ten how many easy shots do you get at the other end? It is so hard. It's hard. Try it sometime. It's hard."
Another Wright 3 cut Wisconsin's lead to 42-32 with 8:18 left, but Krabbenhoft answered with a putback layup and the Wolverines could never get any closer.
"Our defense, what we've been hanging our hat on since the beginning of the year, took us all the way to this one," Krabbenhoft said. "Another team victory for Wisconsin."