Fans packed the stands for a sold out game at Crisler Arena expecting to cheer their Michigan Wolverines to victory over the visiting Wisconsin Badgers basketball team. Wisconsin had other plans, however, and delivered one of their finest performances of the season to upend the home squad and send fans home wondering what might have been.
Contrasting the scene envisioned by most of the 12,707 fans arriving to stiff winds and frigid temperatures at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Wisconsin never trailed and put forward an astounding shooting performance that left Michigan hapless trying to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit.
Each time Michigan made a run and cut the score to within a bucket or two, Wisconsin delivered a death-nail from behind the arch or several consecutive buckets in the paint. The feeling in Crisler was that if Michigan was going to come back, it would have to do so by matching Wisconsin’s shooting; a tall order on a night that Wisconsin shot 64% from the field.
That hope never materialized and two missed opportunities with trips to the free throw line in the final minute kept the spread at three points, which got extended to five and seven after Wisconsin capitalized at the charity stripe on their own end.
The standouts of the game for both teams were evident most of the way. Wisconsin junior point guard, D’Mitrik Trice, turned in a career performance, scoring his way out of a season-long slump and shooting the lights out of Crisler Arena in the process. Trice delivered on 10 of 16 from the floor and a soul-crushing 5 of 6 from three point land. Junior forwards Micah Potter and Aleem Ford also performed well and each added 18 points. Potter finished the night with 7 rebounds and Ford finished with 8. The trio shot nearly 64% from the field and an even more impressive 67% from behind the arch.
Michigan senior point guard, Xavier Simpson, had a career day with 32 points on 14 of 22 shooting. The guard cut deep into the Wisconsin defense and consistently delivered multiple hook shots off the glass over sizable Badger defenders all night. He added 5 rebounds and 6 assists to his stat line on the night. Despite the performance, few other Wolverines scored effectively in the first half or second half and defensive woes meant the Wolverines were unable to sustain runs long enough to close the deficit.
Simpson was aided by freshman guard, Franz Wagner, who came alive in the second half and got to the rack on a number of contested takes. Wagner was the only other Wolverine to finish in double digits and concluded his night with 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting, which he paired with 7 boards.
Wisconsin held off the late Michigan run to secure the 81-74 victory.
Wisconsin will close out their regular season with games against Minnesota, Northwestern and Indiana. Michigan will look to rebound at #23 Ohio State before moving on to face Nebraska on senior night and #9 Maryland on the road in the regular season finale.