Rushed Reactions: Michigan 71, Wisconsin 56

Posted by Chris Stone on March 12th, 2017

RTC’s Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) is providing on-site coverage of the Big Ten Tournament in Washington, DC.

Derrick Walton Jr. led Michigan to a Big Ten title. (AP)

Three Key Takeaways. 

  1. Michigan didn’t look like the tired team. If you asked a neutral observer with no knowledge of prior events which of these two teams had played four games in four days, the answer probably would have been Wisconsin. In the first 10 minutes of the second half, however — a time when you might expect Michigan’s weariness to show — the Wolverines went on a 13-4 run while the Badgers sputtered. During that stretch, Wisconsin shot 1-of-10 from the field and committed five turnovers. It helped Michigan open up the lead that carried them to victory.
  2. Zak Irvin showed up huge. The Michigan senior was hyped during the team’s warmups and he delivered a magnificent performance to back up his talk. Irvin finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists, including a backbreaking three-pointer with 5:46 remaining. Irvin’s three followed a five-point Wisconsin run that forced a John Beilein timeout and briefly quieted the largely pro-Michigan crowd. The scary thing about the Wolverines is that they have so many pieces who can heat up in a hurry. Irvin came up big for them today.
  3. This was not Ethan Happ’s best day. Early on in conference play, Happ looked like a serious contender for Big Ten Player of the Year, but Happ’s candidacy went with it as the Badgers suffered a late season slide. The Wisconsin sophomore is a great talent who does a bit of everything, but Sunday simply wasn’t his day. Happ ended up with a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds), but really struggled to score efficiently around the rim. He finished 6-of-16 from the field and most of his misses came in the paint.

Star of the Game: Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan. Irvin was excellent, but so was Walton for the second day in a row. The senior finished with 22 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals en route to the tournament title. Walton was once again terrific in directing traffic and if anyone leads the Wolverines on a March run, it will be him.

Quotable: 

  • “Our message was, Somebody’s going to do it, why not us?” — Beilein, on winning four games in four days.
  • “But once we got here, I just let that all be what it was. I really focused in and bought into what coach was talking about.” — Walton, on Michigan’s eventful week.
  • “We wouldn’t be the first team that could do something incredible without having a conference championship or a tournament one.” — Nigel Hayes, on Wisconsin’s NCAA Tournament hopes.

Sights and Sounds: Given the success that both Purdue and Minnesota had on the inside against the Wolverines, it wasn’t too much of a surprise to hear one Wisconsin fan in the crowd continuously call for post touches by yelling, “Inside, Badgers! Inside!” The team obliged by frequently going to Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ on the low block, but that is heavily built into Wisconsin’s offense. Nearly 15 percent of the Badgers’ possessions this season have involved post-ups, the 37th highest mark in the country, per Synergy Sports.

What’s Next: Both teams will be in the Field of 68, but Michigan certainly looks like the more dangerous squad right now.

Chris Stone (127 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.


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