ANN ARBOR – Wisconsin came to the Crisler Center on Tuesday with its all-senior starting five, No. 9 national placement and plenty of big-game experience.
It did not matter.
Michigan did what it has done for almost all opponents, especially too late, and dominated at both ends en route to a 77-54 victory to improve to 11-0.
Four Wolverines scored between 12 and 16 points as Michigan shot 52 percent off the field, making 9-of-16 3s. Wisconsin shot only 31 percent, and even that number was amplified by hot shooting after the result was determined.
Good luck finding a team that plays better than No. 7 Michigan right now. UM came before a 25-point victory over Minnesota and a 19-point victory over Northwestern. Both opponents were ranked at the time.
Wisconsin, the last team to win in Crisler, on February 27 last season, had to present a tougher challenge.
Instead, Wolverines rolled to 6-0 in conference with selfless offense and strangled defense. Their 14-0 run to close out the first half gave them a 17-point advantage and had the home bench in hysteria. Wisconsin scored the first three points in the second half. That was when Wolverines went after the jugular.
Chaundee Brown’s recurring thump limited a 22-0 run over the next 6:38 and would have torn the roof off Crisler if there were fans present in addition to the small number of family members.
Wisconsin missed nine straight goals in the field and committed three turnovers during the offense. The Badgers came in as one of the nation’s best 3-point shooting teams, but started only 3-of-17 from deep (they finished 9-of-28). Wisconsin fell to 10-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten.
Franz Wagner produced 15 points and 10 rebounds for the winners. Mike Smith scored 16 and added six assists. Isaiah Livers had 13 points and six boards.
D’Mitrik Trice led Wisconsin by 20 points. Micah Potter added 12, the only other double-digit badger.
The teams combined only 10 free throw attempts.
In addition to Michigan’s monster victory, center Austin Davis returned after missing the last five games with a foot injury sustained on December 9th. Redshirt senior played 12 minutes off the bench and counted four points and four rebounds.
Davis’ absence coincided with the advent of Hunter Dickinson. Michigan’s leading goal scorer of the season scored just two points in the first half, but got started in the second half’s rise to finish with 12 points. Dickinson also recorded three of Michigan’s nine blocks.
Wisconsin’s shots that reached the curve were mostly challenged. Badgers could not get any rhythm offensively. One of the nation’s best at limiting revenue, they had more gifts (10) than assists (eight) on Tuesday.
After Wisconsin stopped the aforementioned 22-0 burst, Michigan scored the next seven points. In all, it was a 43-6 run that led Michigan to 69-29 with 10:23 left.
Michigan will try to keep the momentum in a rematch with No. 23 Minnesota on Saturday in Minneapolis.
Tuesday’s matchup thought it would be competitive early. Livers showed his full repertoire early, scoring seven points as Michigan took an 11-5 lead. Wisconsin’s third 3-pointer equalized the game at 15 with 12:13 left in the half before Michigan found its rhythm from deep.
Brown hit a 3 shortly after check-in. Wagner buried one. Livers crossed his defender – who fell and warned a flop warning – before going to Brandon Johns Jr. for a corner triple, and Michigan led 26-19 with 8:31 left.
Wisconsin reduced the deficit to three with 6:19 left before Michigan’s 14-0 run to close the half. It included consecutive steals and outbursts, a high-flying Wagner dunk, a beautiful step back 3 from Smith and lock-down defense. Michigan led 40-23.
The Michigan bench exploded on to court and made its presence felt throughout the evening.