March 1, 2009

UW holds on for critical win over Michigan

MADISON, Wis. - Michigan threw everything at Wisconsin defensively Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center, but everything was not quite enough. And its two stars DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris scored 17 and 15 points respectively, but UW still found a way to eek out a win.

Behind 19 points from junior Trevon Hughes, the Badgers beat the Wolverines 60-55 in a critical match-up of two squads floating around the post-season bubble.

In the final minutes of the game, it was the Badger defense that sealed the win for UW. With Michigan hanging around and only down a couple of possessions, the Badgers locked in and forced a critical shot clock violation and allowed the Wolverines two well-contested three-point shots on Michigan's final two possessions when it had a chance to tie or even take the lead.

"We were just trying to give them nothing easy," UW senior Joe Krabbenhoft said in regards to the final possessions of the game. "Marcus (Landry) is long and athletic so he jumped out and blocked one of them, and the other one we just tried to get a hand in the face.

"I thought we did a really good job of forcing the tough situations."

When the Badgers had the ball, the Wolverines switched from a man-to-man defensive scheme to its 1-3-1-zone spread on multiple occasions, but every time UW saw a new look, it figured out ways to score.

Eventually, because of the size disparity on the low block that favored UW, Michigan was forced to withdraw from its zone defense and stick with the Badgers man to man.

"Against their zone, we got some high-low looks," UW head coach Bo Ryan, who has never lost to Michigan at home, said after the game. "I think that ended up being something offensively where we got a lot of points on our possessions against that zone when we did the high-low stuff and touched the post."

In fact, the Badgers finished the contest with 34 points in the paint. From the get-go, it was obvious UW had an advantage inside as they attempted to exploit it by dumping it down to both Marcus Landry and Jon Leuer, who finished with 13 and 10 points respectively.

The Badgers jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead just over two and a half minutes into the game. Six of those points were lay-ins and the other two came from the charity stripe after Joe Krabbenhoft was fouled after hauling in his first of 11 rebounds.

"They were lay-ups (and) they could have been dunks," Michigan head coach John Beilein acknowledged after the game. "This team Wisconsin, with a whole week (to prepare), is zipping and they're flying by you. Your team has to realize, 'hey, these guys move the ball, they cut hard and it's natural.'

"They really moved the ball so well and they cut so hard. They're a good passing team."

For most of the first half, the Badgers held a lead. But as halftime drew nearer, Michigan, one of the streakier shooting teams in the league, started hitting some shots en route to hitting 5-of-11 buckets from beyond the arc.

Finally, with just over three minutes left in the opening frame, the Wolverines took their first lead of game when C.J. Lee knocked down an open three-point shot from the right wing.

"We kind of got away from what we were doing in the first few minutes of the game," Landry said. "We gave some turnovers, we didn't score on a few possessions, and they did score, so that gave them the lead going into halftime.

"They were aggressive and executed off of our bad decisions. That's what gave them the lead going into halftime."

After the intermission, the Badgers stormed out of the second half gates with a 13-2 run over the first 10 minutes of the period. But Michigan methodically started chipping away at the Badgers with its shooting and eventually trimmed the lead to two. But that was as close as it would get.

"It's always a 40-minute game," Ryan said. "(Michigan) had one (run) left in them. I'm glad it was one and not two because if they had another one, the outcome wouldn't have been the same.

"We got back to continuing what we do and just tried to do it better."

The Badgers will head to Minnesota for a Wednesday night tilt with Gophers later this week.

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