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January 22, 2008

No. 11 Wisconsin avoids upset against Michigan

Box score

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin's Joe Krabbenhoft doesn't even want to mention the words "Big Ten title."

But that's what was clearly on his mind as he spoke about the importance of the 11th-ranked Badgers holding off cellar dweller Michigan 64-61 on Tuesday night to remain undefeated in the conference.

"If you want to get to that level, these are the games that you're going to have to win in the Big Ten," Krabbenhoft said.

All of Wisconsin's conference wins have come against the bottom half of the Big Ten, and the Badgers (16-2, 6-0) now begin a stretch that includes two games against No. 7 Indiana and two more against Purdue, currently tied for third in the standings.

Losing a home game to Michigan (5-14, 1-6) would have been a blow to Wisconsin's conference title hopes, but the Badgers found a way to do just enough to win.

Wisconsin couldn't shake the Wolverines despite shooting better than 50 percent from the field, committing just 11 turnovers and going 6-of-9 from the free throw line.

But the Badgers had trouble on the glass, with Michigan holding a 36-24 rebounding edge. The Wolverines turned 21 offensive rebounds into 22 points.

"It's just ridiculous on our part," Wisconsin's Carl Landry said. "As a team, we know we are better than that, and we just can't let that happen again. We should be very surprised we won this game with the way we rebounded. ... But we just stuck with it and did what it takes to win the game."

Down 59-58 with less than a minute left, the Wolverines had a chance to take the lead. But Manny Harris, who led Michigan with 26 points, lost the ball as he drove the lane surrounded by Badgers, and Krabbenhoft grabbed the loose ball.

Point guard Trevon Hughes was in trouble at the other end after picking up his dribble, but he found Landry for a 3-pointer that made it 62-58. Michigan turned the ball over on its next possession and Wisconsin's Jason Bohannon made two free throws after being fouled on the inbounds pass. David Merritt added a 3-pointer at the buzzer for Michigan.

Landry and Michael Flowers both scored 14 points for the Badgers, and Hughes added 12.

The Badgers played much of the game without center Brian Butch, their best offensive threat in the post. Second on the team in scoring at better than 13 points a game, Butch played just 22 minutes even though he wasn't in foul trouble. He finished with eight points, and coach Bo Ryan said he sat Butch in the second half to put his best defensive team on the court.

Michigan has struggled under first-year coach John Beilein with the worst defense in the Big Ten and the 10th-ranked offense. But Beilein said his team started to show heart against the Badgers, something that's been missing in previous Big Ten games.

He said he could see defeat in his players' eyes in a loss to Iowa on Saturday but saw the opposite Tuesday.

"You can sustain more energy than you think you have. You can create energy, just by making that extra play," Beilein said. "We've got to understand that energy gets you stuff like offensive rebounds. There's no technique; there's energy there."

Ekpe Udoh and DeShawn Sims both added 10 points for the Wolverines, who lost at home to Wisconsin 70-54 Jan. 2.

For more coverage of Wisconsin, visit BadgerBlitz.com; for more on Michigan, visit TheWolverine.com.

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