The Michigan Wolverines (18-10, 9-8 B1G) saw their five-game winning streak come to an end on Thursday night at home, losing 81-74 to Wisconsin (18-10, 11-6 B1G) in the second-to-last game at Crisler Center of the season.
Junior guard Eli Brooks (broken nose) did not play for Michigan. Zavier SImpson had a career-night offensively with 32 points six assists (to one turnover) and five rebounds, but he was a one-man show for most of the night as he tried to will the Wolverines to victory. Wisconsin was led by an outstanding performance from D’Mitrik Trice, who finished the game with 28 points and was five-for-six from beyond the three-point line.
Brooks’ absence was notable in that the Wolverines were without arguably their best defender to start the game. Because of that, Juwan Howard elected to give the starting lineup a bit of a different look by starting Brandon Johns in place of Brooks and Franz Wagner sliding to the two-guard and Isaiah Livers sliding to the three. As a result, the Badgers were often times able to out-athlete Michigan in the first half and used hot shooting (63 percent in the first 20 minutes) to take a 43-33 lead into the half.
The Wolverines came out of the locker room on fire to start the second chapter of play, going on an 8-0 run right out of the gate to get the lead down to two points at 43-41. The Badgers would respond with a 16-4 run to push the lead back up to 12 at 59-47 with around 11 minutes to play. Michigan was still able to to keep things within striking distance and even had the lead down to three points with about three minutes to go, but the Badgers had an answer almost every time down the court after the Wolverines tried to grab some momentum. Michigan had the deficit to as low as three with 26 seconds left in the game, but missed free throws down the stretch seemed to sink chances of a win.
- The defensive performance was bad on a variety of fronts, but credit to Wisconsin for having an answer for literally everything Michigan threw at it. With that said, the defense from the perimeter was brutal and the transition defense was not much better. Anyone who questioned how important Brooks is to this team had a bit of a epiphany on Thursday evening, as it turns it out kind of hurts to lose your best defender. Juwan Howard was not happy with the effort after the game and David DeJulius told reporters that he felt like Michigan played soft on its home court. The tape will probably back that up, as this was one was right up there with the Penn State game in terms of underwhelming performances.
- Franz Wagner was tremendous again for Michigan, finishing with 17 points and seven rebounds while shooting seven-for-nine from the floor. The Wolverines have him to thank in part for the second half surge and his game continues to peak at the right time.
- Isaiah Livers played probably his worst game of the season to this point and finished with nine points. There were times where it looked like he was laboring a bit, but the offense just was not there and at times it felt like he was pressing a bit. I would not be too concerned about this, but he stands out as someone that was not a huge factor in this game.
- Howard said after the game that the reason he went with a bigger starting lineup was that if he played both Simpson and David DeJulius together to start the game and they both got into foul trouble, Michigan was going to be in trouble without their two primarily ball handlers. It makes sense, as that left them with Adrien Nunez left as a guy who can play the guard spot along with Wagner playing the two. This is where Michigan’s lack of playmaking depth hurts them and something Howard figures to address with next year’s class.
- Jon Teske played 23 minutes in this game and finished with seven points and two (!!!) rebounds. That’s just not it, mate.
- Michigan stole both of its road games last week when it may have been fine to just grab one of them, so this loss does not hurt too much. In a lot of ways, it is a blip on the radar and a bit of an anomoly, especially given the body of work over the last month or so. Brooks will probably be back Sunday, albeit with a mask on, and as always the most important thing is what comes next. One performance in a vacuum is one thing. We will have to wait and see if it becomes a trend or not.
Next up for Michigan is a trip to Columbus for a rematch with Ohio State on Sunday afternoon. That game is set for a 4 p.m. ET tipoff and will be broadcast via CBS. The Buckeyes beat Michigan earlier this season at Crisler by a score of 61-58.