Wolverines Look To Recapture Top Spot
WISCONSIN – Michigan snapped a long losing streak to Wisconsin last year, and ending another in Madison could mean a quick return to No. 1 in the nation.
The third-ranked Wolverines make their case to re-claim the top spot in the AP poll as they attempt to beat the Badgers on the road for the first time in 14 years Saturday morning local time.
Michigan (21-2, 8-2) was ranked No. 1 just last week, but last Saturday’s 81-73 loss at then-No. 3 Indiana caused the Big Ten rivals to switch positions.
Now, the Wolverines have a chance to quickly supplant the Hoosiers since they lost 74-72 at Illinois on Thursday. Second-ranked Florida also fell two days prior, losing 80-69 at Arkansas.
Michigan bounced back from its loss to Indiana by edging No. 10 Ohio State 76-74 in overtime Tuesday.
“Just to come out and grit it out all the way to the end of regulation and in overtime, it shows a lot, how this team can stay together,” said guard Trey Burke, who had 16 points while hitting 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
While a victory may be enough to put the Wolverines back atop the Top 25, they’ll have to win at Kohl Center for the first time since Feb. 27, 1999. They’ve dropped 10 in a row there, being outscored by an average of 14.7 points.
Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 17 points and 10 rebounds helped Michigan end a 10-game overall slide to the Badgers (16-7, 7-3), winning 59-41 at home on Jan. 8, 2012.
The junior guard had 23 points while sinking 6 of 9 3s against the Buckeyes, and his average of 16.0 points and 43.1 percent from long range are among the best in the conference.
The Badgers, though, allow a conference-low 56.2 points per game while yielding 30.6 percent from beyond the arc. Michigan’s 41.2 percent from long range is second in the Big Ten.
Coach John Beilein feels Michigan will need to be efficient in order to deal with of Wisconsin’s ability to slow down the game with its swing offense.
“You’re not going probably score as many points as usual,” he said. “You’re not going to get as many shots. It’s going to be lower possession times, so your turnovers and your value of the ball is important. You have to take quality shots.”
“Wisconsin is the best I’ve ever seen with 1 on the shot clock, and still getting a good shot up.”
The Badgers are 12-2 at home, outscoring opponents by 20.5 points per game while holding them to 36.8 percent from the floor.
They continued that success Wednesday, limiting Iowa to 33.8 percent shooting – 5 for 23 from behind the arc – on their way to a 74-70 double-overtime win. Wisconsin, however, wasn’t any better from the field, making 33.8 percent and 7 of 25 from long range.
“Shot selection became a little scary, but we just hung on, hung on, and hung on some more,” coach Bo Ryan said. “They’ll say it, they didn’t quit. We made some shots and gave ourselves a chance.”
Ben Brust will try to continue his productive stretch. The junior guard had 18 points against the Hawkeyes after scoring 20 in Sunday’s 74-68 victory at Illinois, reaching double digits in back-to-back games for the first time since doing so in three straight from Nov. 28-Dec. 4.
He mustered only six points off the bench against Michigan last season, while Jared Berggren finished with three points and five boards while hitting 1 of 6 from the field.
The senior big man had 16 points and a season-high 14 rebounds Wednesday.
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