Michigan’s Zack Novak battles WIsconsin’s Rob Wilson for a loose ball Saturday afternoon. AP photo.
Michigan basketball coach John Beilein called it “unacceptable.”
It was like a nightmare — agonizing death at Crisler Arena for the Wolverines Saturday afternoon . The final score was Wisconsin 62, Michigan 44 but it was much worse than that.
“No one loses blowouts at home in the Big Ten,” Beilein said. “Our support from our fans has been great and no one deserves to see a whipping like that.”
An uninspired, disinterested Michigan team lost its fifth game in its last six tries and falls to 11-12 and 4-7 in Big Ten play.
Looking at the big picture, Michigan has no realistic chance to make it back to the NCAA tournament. Last year the Wolverines made it to the Big Dance for the first time in 10 years but this year even getting to the NIT is going to take some doing. Of course, Michigan could run the table in the post-season Big Ten tournament where the winner is guaranteed an NCAA berth, but that would take a miracle.
Michigan began the season ranked No. 15 in the Associated Press poll but now with just seven games left in the regular season and three home games remaining, the Wolverines are playing out the string.
“We just have to play better,” said Beilein. “I don’t know what we can do right now but I’ll look at the film and we’ll work this out. That’s my job.”
“It’s frustrating,” said sophomore guard Stu Douglass.
“We just have to go out and play each game and try to do the things we know we can do,” said senior forward DeShawn Sims, who led the Wolverines with 18 points.
Wisconsin improved to 18-5 overall and 8-3 in league play. The Badgers are ranked No. 16 and Beilein is 0-7 against the team from Madison. Earlier this year Michigan led by nine points with nine minutes to play only to lost at Wisconsin, 54-48.
The streaking Badgers have won four of its last five including an 18-point over Michigan State at Madison last week.
“They just take you out of your offense,” said Beilein.
“They are probably the best defensive team we play all year,” said Sims.
Michigan was held to a season-low 44 points. Wisconsin broke the game open with a 14-0 run midway through the first half and never looked back.
The half ended on a 40-foot desperation heave at the buzzer that went in for a three-pointer by Jason Bohannon, who led the Badgers with 18 points. Time and time again Wisconsin held the ball on offense for nearly the full 35 seconds allowed by the shot clock before making a basket.
“They force you to play defense all the that time and it makes it difficult,” said Beilein. “And then they get an offensive rebound and you’re playing defense for long stretches.”
Wisconsin outrebounded Michigan, 29-19 and had eight offensive boards. Michigan, on offense, was not nearly as patient.
“We weren’t getting good looks,” said Beilein. “They took us out of what we wanted to do.”
Michigan was 2-for-2 on three-pointers in the first half but didn’t take a shot from long distance in the first 17 minutes because Wisconsin played tight defense on the perimeter. In the game Michigan hit only 2-of-11 behind the stripe while Wisconsin hit 11 of 21.
Trevor Hughes added 13 points for the Badgers and Jordan Taylor scored 13. Manny Harris scored 11 points for Michigan but hit just 4 of 11 from the field.
Darius Morris added eight points for Michigan and made his first start in more than a month. Beilein said the freshman started because he was more of a “classic point guard” than the previous starter Laval Lucas-Perry, who came off the bench and failed to score in seven minutes of play.
The only real cheers of the day for Michigan fans came at halftime when members of the 1984-85 team were introduced to the crowd as part of a 25-year anniversary celebration.
Coach Bill Frieder’s team was 26-4 and posted the best regular-season Big Ten mark in school history, 16-2. The team ended the regular season ranked No. 2 in the nation and lost in the NCAA tournament to the team that would eventually win the title, Villanova led by coach Rollie Massimino. Villanova upset big favorite Georgetown and center Patrick Ewing in one of college basketball’s greatest-ever games.
The Wolverines were led by Big Ten player of the year Roy Tarpley, a 7-footer who was chosen as the No. 7 overall pick in the NBA draft by Dallas. Tarpley was eventually banned from the NBA for drug abuse.
Among the players who returned to Ann Arbor to take a bow were Gary Grant, nicknamed “the General” who was the Big Ten freshman of the year that season. Grant, who had a long NBA career, mostly with the Miami Heat, now lives in California and looked in playing shape.
Also on hand was starting guard Antoine Joubert, A Detroit schoolyard legend, now coaching at Oakland Community College.
Frieder, who nowadays runs basketball camps and is a radio college basketball commentator for Westwood One, made a rare trip back to Ann Arbor and still wore the characteristic towel on his left shoulder.
Frieder had a memorable, but messy final days as Michigan coach. He announced after the regular seasons in 1989 that he was leaving Michigan to coach at Arizona State. Then Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler fired Freider on the eve of the NCAA tournament and named assistant Steve Fisher as Michigan’s head coach. Fisher then led the Wolverines to the team’s only NCAA championship title.
Michigan returns to basketball play Thursday at Minnesota.
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