Wisconsin has had it a bit easy in Big Ten play so far, but Saturday night a trip to Michigan loomed as the Badgersâ€™ toughest test in conference play. The No. 6-ranked Badgers were put to the test in a major way, pulling out a 69-64 win over Michigan in overtime.
It may have been the strangest game of the season, as the Badgers (18-2, 6-1 B1G) outshot Michigan (12-8, 5-3 B1G) 47.1 to 42.6 percent and hit more three pointers than the Wolverines and still couldnâ€™t close the game out in regulation.
Losing the rebounding battle on the night (33-30) certainly didnâ€™t help matters, nor did Sam Dekker sitting on the bench for four minutes at the end of regulation.
However, senior forward Frank Kaminsky would come up big when the Badgers absolutely had to have it, scoring eight of his game-high 22 points in overtime. He would add a game-high nine rebounds and become the second player in UW history to hit 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks in a career (Mike Wilkinson is the other).
This game wasnâ€™t easy from the get-go for the Badgers and Wolverines, as both teams were a bit cold to start the first half. Despite that, UW found a way to put up a decent total in the half and go in to the locker room with a lead.
UW ended the half up 30-23, and as the score indicated things werenâ€™t easy for the Badgers throughout the half. Michigan played a mix and match style of defense, switching between a 1-3-1 zone, a 2-3 zone and man-to-man defense. It frustrated the Badgers on the offensive end, with Wisconsin turning the ball over six times alone in the first half.
However, the Badgers found a way to battle through the rough patches and ended the half on a 9-0 run with a Hayes triple from the wing. It was just a good example of how crazy the game was, as Wisconsin shot 50 percent from the field (12-24) in the half and shot 44.4 percent from three-point range (4-9) too.
Despite those good looking numbers the Badgers couldnâ€™t pull completely away in the first half. Thatâ€™s because Michigan grabbed five offensive rebounds and did a good job of turning Wisconsin turnovers in to points.
Point guard Bronson Koenig led all scorers in the first half with seven points on 3-4 shooting,while forwards Nigel Hayes and Frank Kaminsky chipped in well with six points each in the first half effort.
Koenig, Hayes and Dekker would end up joining Kaminsky in double digits. Koenig would also have a game-high four assists in the winning effort.
Wisconsin came out of the intermission wanting to be more physical on the defensive end and crisper against the zone defense. It did just that, with the Badgers attacking the rim on offense and forcing bad shots from the Wolverines to star the half.
UW took itâ€™s seven-point lead and extended it to double digits quick to start the second half, leading by as many as 11 points in the first four minutes of the half. However, the Wolverines would come right back after Wisconsin went up 38-27, putting up an 11-0 run of their own to tie up the ballgame at 38-38.
The Badgers were held scoreless for six-straight possessions after running that 11-point lead, with Koenig breaking the drought with a deep three-pointer. Michigan wasnâ€™t going to go away, nailing a triple to tie it right back up at 41-41 though.
It would remain a tight game all second half after that, with Michigan seemingly matching anything and everything the Badgers were doing. Still, Wisconsin had a chance to end the game in regulation.
Up three at 57-54 with less than 10 seconds left, Wisconsin needed to just not let a three-point attempt happen. Rather than going full-court press the Badgers backed off, never fouled a non-shooter and lost Michiganâ€™s biggest threat â€” Derrick Walton, who hit the game-tying three pointer with just over one second remaining in regulation.
It was all Wisconsin in the overtime period, as the Badgers raced out to a six-point lead on back-to-back three pointers and never looked back. Kaminsky helped salt things away late with his free throw shooting, and the Badgers escaped tricky Crisler Arena with a much needed win.
Badger of the Game: Frank Kaminsky
Hard to argue with the guy who led all scorers (22 points) and all rebounders (9) and got his team across the finish line in overtime too. Kaminsky showed his importance to this team as UW attempted to bust the zone throughout the contest and he made Michigan pay plenty of times on the night.
Key Moment: Wisconsinâ€™s end of regulation decision making
It will forever puzzle me why a team that choses not to go full-court press up three also decides not to foul someone as soon as they walk over the half court line. The Badgers didnâ€™t do that and then decided to not cover shooters from the perimeter as well. Of course Walton hits the three and the games goes to a needless overtime period.
Sure, things worked out well for UW in the end, but it shouldâ€™ve never gotten to OT.
Up Next: Jan. 31, @ Iowa; 11am CT ESPN