Michigan lost a heartbreaker today at Wisconsin 65-62 in overtime. The score was 60-57 with just 2.4 seconds left, in favor of the Wolverines after Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a contested three pointer to take the lead. It appeared that the Wolverines would escape a hell-hole for them, known as the Kohl Center with a win. Then Ben Brust happened. Brust sank a 40 foot half-court shot as time expired to send the game to overtime and to delay Michigan’s ascension back to no. 1 in the country. However, in overtime, that delay became a cancellation, as Michigan lost by three points.
It was a typical Wisconsin game for any Big Ten foe facing the Badgers in Madison. Although there were some exciting plays throughout the game, much of it was a defensive struggle. Wisconsin’s ugly yet effective brand of nap-inducing basketball was effective, keeping the game close throughout. Trey Burke led the game with 19 points, but even he could never really get going. Wisconsin used their size advantage with Jared Berggren to own the paint for much of the game, out-rebounding Michigan and having three players with eight or more boards. The game was physical throughout, with referees reticent to blow their whistles, helping the home team, Wisconsin.
Nonetheless, Michigan had their chances to win the game in regulation, even before the Brust miracle. Michigan scored just four points in the final seven minutes, before the Hardaway three, settling for bad shots against the stout Wisconsin defense. Michigan made plenty of mistakes down the stretch, with Burke missing three layups he usually makes in the final five minutes and Mitch McGary (who played well overall, knocking in some mid-range jumpers) missing an open fastbreak layup in overtime. They also failed to capitalize on four Wisconsin turnovers in the final six minutes of regulation, getting no points off of them.
Finally, the question on whether Michigan should have fouled before Brust could get off the three is one that was very controversial. ESPN’s Dan Dakich was very adamant that the Wolverines should have fouled(and same with Wisconsin before Tim Hardaway Jr.’s three pointer on the previous play). I agree, and so did Michigan coach John Beilein, who could be seen yelling for his players to foul before the ball was inbounded. Caris Levert, Brust’s defender, really did not have enough time to foul without the fear of fouling the shooter in the act. A more practical solution to the problem would have been Michigan guarding the inbounder, not allowing him to throw a perfect pass to half-court.
So, was it awful luck that Michigan lost this game? Yes. But, it did not have to come down to that for them. Michigan had plenty of chances to be up by more than three points before the buzzer-beater and still had a chance to win in overtime. Instead Michigan once again walks away from a game traumatized by the Wisconsin buzzer beaters and half court shots and even more importantly without a chance to be no.1 in the country and alone in first place in the Big Ten.