Wisconsin played Michigan at home at the Kohl Center on Feb. 14 beating them 64-59. The Badgers missed their last 15 shots but, thanks to their aggressive defense and hitting crucial free throws, they held off Michigan to come out with a win.
Here’s a little background on the game, even before the tip-off had begun:
- Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson called the Badgers “scumbags” on his podcast in January,
- Dickinson showed up at the Kohl Center in a ski mask because Michigan was “going to steal a win” from the Badgers,
- If Michigan lost to the Badgers, their tournament chances would fall even lower, and
- Michigan’s head coach Juwan Howard previously hit Wisconsin’s assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft’s face in the postgame handshake between the teams. This then set off a massive fight between coaches and players from both teams during last season’s game against Michigan at the Kohl Center.
Photo Cred: Coach & Athletic Director Photo Cred: The New York Times
There was a lot of tension going into the Valentine’s Day game but, luckily, no fights broke out. Dickinson had to walk out of the Kohl Center empty-handed!
In the past, Wisconsin has struggled big time with hitting their free throws during crucial moments of the game. Freshman guard Connor Essegian, who has had a tremendous season with the Badgers and has become one of the team’s star players, hit seven of eight free throws in the final three minutes. This included two with 6.6 seconds left in the game. Essegian finished the game with a college-high 23 points.
Photo Cred: Wisconsin Badgers Photo Cred: Badgers Wire
Essegian is 6’4’’ and all of 185 pounds but, again and again, he proves to be a key player for the Badgers. He is consistent, does not fall under pressure, and (most importantly) hits his free throws when it matters most.
The Badgers needed this win for their confidence after blowing a 17-point lead against Nebraska and then eventually losing to them in overtime last week.
“They know we just had to play better basketball,” Gard [UW coach Greg Gard] said. “And better basketball covers a lot of things. But we just had to be more consistently true to who we are and what makes us good.”
Photo Cred: The Clinton Herald Photo Cred: Wikipedia
Both Michigan and Wisconsin were eager for this victory, as both teams needed another win to get them closer to the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines are now 14-12 and the Badgers are now 15-10. At the beginning of the season, there was a time when the Badgers were 11-2 but then lost six out of seven games… Since then, Wisconsin has been struggling to string together victories in the second half of their season.
The Badgers scored eight points off of 15 offensive rebounds and hit 14 of 18 free throws, while the Wolverines were just six of 10. Wisconsin came into Tuesday night’s game shooting 59.3% from the line in league play. UW picked up the tempo and the urgency during this game because they knew a win was necessary for tournament play. There was also the added chip on the shoulder from last year’s fight and Dickinson’s trashy entrance.
Photo Cred: The Michigan Daily Photo Cred: Bucky’s 5th Quarter
“It’s tough to win on the road when you give a team extra possessions,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “And then 12 turnovers. We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball.
“I expected it was going to be one of these games where you had to come in bring your hard hat and try to win the muscle areas.”
Essegian was an 87.2% free throw shooter entering the night but hit just two of seven three-point shots in this game. However, he was still a great asset for the Badgers in the paint. He attacked the basket on multiple possessions and helped get Wisconsin their 52-42 lead with 10 minutes left in the second half.
Photo Cred: On3.com Photo Cred: Fox 11
Steven Crowl, a towering presence on the court, was very aggressive from the start of the game and was notably more aggressive toward Dickinson. Crowl hit three of his first four shots. However, he would then proceed to miss nine of his last 11…
Photo Cred: BadgerBlitz (Crowl) Photo Cred: The Penn (Klesmit)
Max Klesmit added 10 points and amazing defense against Jett Howard. Jordan Davis added five points and three rebounds. Tyler Wahl hit two of 11 shots, which is very unlike him because he’s usually a very consistent player and scorer for the Badgers. He did make up for it with six points and nine rebounds.
Photo Cred: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Davis) Photo Cred: Idaho State Journal (Wahl)
Carter Gilmore guarded Dickinson when Crowl was on the bench. Kamari McGee was a standout player with six points, one assist, and a rebound, which was a season-high for him. Chucky Hepburn had a surprisingly low-scoring game, hitting just one of nine shots, and finished the game with just two points. However, Hepburn had a crucial steal and kept UW’s lead 61-57.
Photo Cred: Bozeman Daily Chronicle (Gilmore) Photo Cred: Bucky’s 5th Quarter (McGee)
“I feel like I gave a good spark on both ends,” McGee said. “Whether it was me being a pest on the defensive end or getting into the paint and making the right reads, I feel like I was all over the place. Gave us the spark that we needed.”
Photo Cred: On3.com (Hepburn)
Dickinson came into this game leading Michigan in scoring with 17.9 ppg and leading rebounding with 8.4. He was trash-talking even during the game, motioning towards the student section throughout, which got the crowd of 15,436 even rowdier than they already were.
Dickinson missed all three of his field goal attempts and had just three points in the second half.
The Badgers ended the game and held off Michigan thanks to their defense and free throws from Essegian.
Photo Cred: Detroit Free Press
“I just think staying solid on defense and rebounding,” Crowl said. “And then getting to the line and hitting the free throws down the stretch.
“I thought it was a great bounce-back win. But we can’t be satisfied. As we saw the other week, we beat Penn State and then we [went] to Nebraska and lost. We can’t be satisfied with the win tonight. We have to come back on Saturday and get another win.”
The Badgers must carry on this momentum, as they play Rutgers at home this Saturday, February 18.
Photo Cred: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Photo Cred: ESPN