There was only one Big Ten game on Thursday Night, but it held huge implications for both teams as Michigan hosted #11 Wisconsin.
The Wolverines are fighting to make the NCAA tournament and needed this win to get above .500 in the conference for the first time all season. The Badgers were looking to rebound from a stunning 66-59 home loss to a Northwestern team that played without leading scorer Scottie Lindsey. Wisconsin entered the game clinging to first place in the Big Ten, just a half game ahead of #16 Purdue and #23 Maryland.
In the end? Things just got a lot more interesting in the race for the Big Ten regular season title.
Game of the Night:
-Michigan Wolverines 64, #11 Wisconsin Badgers 58
The Badgers entered this game at a disadvantage due to injury. Senior guard Bronson Koenig missed the game with a left leg strain. This was the first game in Koenig’s great Wisconsin career that he had missed a game due to injury. The Badgers started freshman D’Mitrik Trice in his place at point guard.
After a quick 8-2 start by Michigan forced a Wisconsin timeout, the Badgers settled down behind a fantastic first half by sophomore forward Ethan Happ. Using a litany of low post moves, Happ scored 18 points to propel the Badgers to a 31-30 halftime lead.
The Badgers extended their lead at the beginning of the second half to 38-30 on a Happ layup at the 17:39 mark. Michigan then responded with a key 13-4 run that gave the Wolverines a 43-42 lead with 12 minutes left. After a Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman three pointer with 7:55 remaining, Michigan took a lead they would never relinquish, 50-47.
After the Happ layup, Michigan outscored the Badgers 34-19 to end the game.
The win puts Michigan (17-9, 7-6) in a tie for fifth place in the Big Ten with Minnesota. The Wolverines now have consecutive road games at Minnesota and at Rutgers, before returning home for a big game against #16 Purdue on February 25th. This win served as a huge boost to Michigan’s hope for an NCAA Tournament bid.
The loss drops Wisconsin (21-5, 10-3) into a three-way tie for first place with Purdue and Maryland, who they host on Sunday night. The Badgers then go on the road for two games at Ohio State and at Michigan State. Wisconsin hopes to have Koenig back soon, as they try to win their second Big Ten Regular Season Championship in just three seasons.