Wisconsin Upsets Previously Undefeated Michigan Behind Near Triple-Double by Ethan Happ

    Wisconsin did something on Saturday no team has been able to do since Villanova in the 2018 national championship game: beat Michigan. After a school-best

    January 19, 2019

    Wisconsin did something on Saturday no team has been able to do since Villanova in the 2018 national championship game: beat Michigan.

    After a school-best 17-0 start to the season, No. 2 Michigan arrived in Madison with the chance to potentially take over the No. 1 spot in the next AP Top 25 poll following No. 1 Duke’s loss to Syracuse earlier in the week.

    But the Wolverines’ pursuit of the No. 1 ranking will have to wait.

    Wisconsin improved to 17-5 against Michigan since Coach John Beilein arrived in Ann Arbor with a 64-54 win on Saturday that left Virginia as the country’s last remaining undefeated team and Michigan State as the only unbeaten team in Big Ten play.

    Facing a potential three-game slide and losing record in conference play, the Badgers defended their home court for their best win of the season.

    It was a prototypical game for the Big Ten’s two slowest-paced teams and two of the top 15 defenses nationally. In a low-scoring, low-possession game, Wisconsin and Michigan couldn’t have had a bigger disparity in the production of their leading scorers.

    Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ turned in a near triple-double with 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis, a freshman who arrived at the Kohl Center averaging 15.6 points per game, was held scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting.

    Perhaps equally costly as his five misses were defensive miscues, most notably an intentional foul call with 51.2 seconds left when Michigan trailed 57-54. Brazdeikis attempted to foul Happ, a 49 percent free throw shooter, when the Wisconsin forward had the ball but the Michigan freshman was whistled after Happ passed the ball to teammate D’Mitrik Trice.

    The call resulted in two free throws for Happ, who made the first and missed the second, and Wisconsin kept possession of the ball. Happ tipped in his own missed layup, completing a three-point possession that doubled Wisconsin’s lead and took almost 30 seconds off the game clock.

    Michigan point guard Zavier Simpson, who’s listed at 6-feet, had his three-point attempt blocked by Wisconsin forward Nate Reuvers, 6-11, who ran the floor for a dunk off an assist from Happ in the game’s closing seconds to put the Badgers up by eight.

    It was the exclamation point in a back-and-forth game in which neither team’s lead had previously extended beyond six points.

    Besides Michigan center Jon Teske, who scored a team-high 15 points with seven rebounds, four blocks, two steals, two threes and a defensive performance that frustrated Happ and Reuvers in the post, the Wolverines didn’t get efficient offensive production from their starting lineup.

    Second-leading scorer Charles Matthews, who averaged 14.1 points per game entering Saturday, had five points on 2-of-5 shooting.

    Sophomore Jordan Poole had 14 points on 15 shots and Simpson had 11 points on 12 shots, plus an 0-for-2 trip to the free throw line when Michigan was down by six in the final three minutes.

    Poole had just three points after halftime.

    With just six players who average more than four points per game, Michigan doesn’t have the depth to survive a combined 2-of-10 shooting performance from its top two scorers.

    Michigan scored just 0.82 points per possession with a 24.2 percent turnover rate, both of which were the Wolverines’ worst per-possession marks of the season. They’ve frequently scored at least 1.20 points per possession and limited their turnover rate to less than 15 percent.

    Despite some of the ugly offensive numbers on Saturday, Michigan’s loss doesn’t change the Wolverines’ trajectory this season.

    Their third-ranked defense held Wisconsin to less than one point per possession on the road, which was a strong enough defensive performance to have potentially resulted in a different outcome if Brazdeikis didn’t commit the intentional foul in the final minute.

    The trip to Madison was tied with a road game at Maryland for the second-toughest game left on the Wolverines’ schedule – behind Michigan’s regular season finale at Michigan State – according to kenpom.com, which gave them a 53 percent chance of victory against Wisconsin.

    Michigan now finds itself in a three-way race for the Big Ten title.

    Michigan State has sole possession of first place in the Big Ten at 7-0, followed by Maryland at 7-1 and Michigan at 6-1 as those three teams have separated from the crowded middle of the conference standings.

    While Saturday’s result doesn’t change the long-term prognosis for Michigan, it could for Wisconsin.

    It will go down as a Quadrant 1 win, which is just the Badgers’ third of the season based on the latest NET rankings. The victory propels them to tied for fifth in the conference, while a loss would have dropped them to 3-4 in the Big Ten and the bottom half of the conference standings.

    It was also a vintage performance by Happ, who will go down as one of the school’s all-time statistical leaders and he proved himself yet again as important to his team as almost any individual player in the country.


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