Winning ugly is sometimes part of the mix in the Big Ten conference. But there was nothing ugly about senior guard Bronson Koenig’s second half, as he pulled the Badgers over the finish line 68-64 against a game Michigan Wolverines squad.
The win was Wisconsin’s 17th straight at home and its 11th in the last 12 games overall this season.
However, it took a mammoth effort from Bronson Koenig to get the Badgers to those numbers, finishing with 16 points, 13 of which came in the second half.
As Michigan went cold and struggled with foul trouble, Wisconsin went on a 15-0 run to push the lead to 58-49 with 2:24 to play. From there it was a team effort at the free throw line mostly, capped off by a pair of makes from Koenig with four seconds left to play and just a two-point lead to play with.
Koenig had help in this game, with Vitto Brown (13), Ethan Happ (11) and Nigel Hayes (13) all scoring in double figures. None of it was excellent shooting though, as those four double digit scorers combined to shoot just 42 percent from the field (19 of 45).
Wisconsin’s hot streak against Ohio State didn’t hold over, at least for the first 30-plus minutes of the game.
A combination of bad spacing, good Michigan defense inside the arc and bad shot selection led to Wisconsin leading just 26-21 at the break despite creating six Michigan turnovers and having a 16-6 advantage in points in the paint.
The lone bright spot was the play of senior forward Vitto Brown, who tied for the first-half lead with nine points on 4 of 6 shooting. Michigan countered with Zak Irvin and his nine points though.
Despite the struggles, Wisconsin’s defense did its job in the first half, allowing the Badgers to lead for more than 17 minutes of the half.
That work didn’t matter much, as Wisconsin let Michigan hang around and it came back to bite them hard to start the second half.
UW took over seven minutes in to hit its first field goal for the half. Meanwhile, Michigan went from down six to up by as many as eight points.
Even making Michigan foul and foul and foul didn’t matter in the first 10 minutes of the half, as Wisconsin couldn’t take advantage of spending most of the second half in the bonus. In fact, three of Wisconsin’s first five points of the half came from the free throw line and it took until there was just 11:55 left before a second field goal would go in for the Badgers in the half.
Wisconsin got things going from the field off a missed free throw ironically, as freshman point guard D’Mitrick Trice missed the back end of two free throws and received the ball in the corner for a three pointer.
It served to wake up the Kohl Center and Wisconsin’s offense too. Nigel Hayes went down the next possession and made the game 38-36 Michigan with 10:50 to play in the game.
From there it was the Bronson Koenig show, as he poured in 13 of his 16 points in the second half of the game. It led in large part to the Badgers going from down by as many as eight points to up 60-51 with 2:13 to play.
However, the Wolverines wouldn’t die and nearly fought all the way back despite incredible foul trouble. That happened in large part thanks to shooting a ridiculous 7 of 11 from three-point range in the second half.
It certainly helped Michigan crawl back in the final minute, eventually pushing Wisconsin to just a 66-64 lead before Koenig’s clutch free throws to seal the deal.
- Alex Illikainen needs to stop shooting three point shots. We get that you went 2-of-2 from deep against Ohio State, but even Illikainen had to know that those makes were an aberration and not a sign of things to come. Illikainen found out the hard way in the first half, badly missing his first attempt and then airballing a wide-open attempt from the top of the arc later in the first half.
- If there was a moment of the game for me, it was a timely missed free throw by Wisconsin. With D’Mitrick Trice at the line & the Badgers desperate for points, he hit the first of two only to miss the second and then this happened:
- Without that bucket with the Badgers down by seven, there is no comeback, no Koenig going nuts and certainly no 15-0 run. That was the moment everything clicked for Wisconsin and it all unraveled for Michigan.
Wisconsin will travel to Eastern Dakota to take on the Goofs on Saturday at 3:30p.m. CT. The game will be televised by either CBS or BTN, which will be determined later this week.