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Michigan overcomes halftime deficit, rust at Wisconsin in first game in three weeks

A massive victory given the circumstances.

Michigan v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (14-1, 9-1 Big Ten) were finally back on the court after a three-week layoff on Sunday, scratching out a 67-59 victory at No. 21 Wisconsin to sweep the season series. It looked extremely bleak at times and the rust was apparent, but so was the fight and the poise when push came to shove in Sunday’s game.

Sunday’s effort was led by Isaiah Livers, who finished the game with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the floor. Franz Wagner added 14 of his own, while Hunter Dickinson notched another double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Drawing a trip to Madison as the first game back from a COVID-related shutdown — one that never saw any members of the team test positive — always felt like it was going to be a tough test. That proved to be the case with Michigan trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half and going into the locker room down by 12.

Everything just felt a step slow on Sunday on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. The CBS broadcast had microphones on the rims for this game and they received a heck of a workout in picking up shots that were clanking off the basket.

Despite coming into the game looking mentally fatigued and out of sorts on both ends of the floor, Michigan continued to fight and keep things within striking distance throughout the afternoon. It was not until a few minutes into the second half where it felt like things started to take a turn. An elbow to Mike Smith’s face by notorious Big Ten villain Brad Davison somehow resulted in a technical foul on Michigan and free throws for Wisconsin. It would be the last time the Wolverines trailed by double digits in the game.

Michigan went on a 35-16 run from that point on and closed out the win in the final minutes thanks to critical plays by Livers and Dickinson, the latter of whom made his biggest splash on the boards. Free throws in the final minute from Eli Brooks and Chaundee Brown stretched the lead out to eight and propelled Michigan to a victory.

Given everything this team has been through in recent weeks, this game is less about what the box score looks like and more about what the victory says about them as a group. This was as impressive a win that any team in college basketball has had this season. Michigan flexed its championship pedigree in this game and re-established itself on Sunday as one of the best teams in the country.

Next up for Michigan is a home date with Rutgers on Thursday evening in Ann Arbor before a rivalry showdown with No. 4 Ohio State on the road next Sunday.