Published: Mon, March 13, 2017
USA | By Cassandra Hanson

Big Ten Championship Pick: Will Michigan stay hot vs. Wisconsin? 3/12/17

Big Ten Championship Pick: Will Michigan stay hot vs. Wisconsin? 3/12/17

The up-and-down Badgers hit a stride at the end of the season, however, and they found themselves in the Big Ten Tournament championship once again.

This season was one in which MI was an afterthought, both nationally and in conference play.

Wisconsin was playing in Sunday's championship for the second time in three years.

The Badgers, who finished two games back of Purdue, and split two regular-season games with MI, enter the NCAA Tournament at 25-9 and likely a No. 6 seed.

Bronson Koenig, who was held out of UW's six-point loss in Ann Arbor because of a painful calf injury, was a force in the first half but ineffective in the second. Wagner didn't return in the first half, but still had 14 points.

Five Gophers scored in double figures, led by Nate Mason with 23 points. Wilson is at 37.4 percent and has made more than a 3-pointer per game. The teams combined for 14 ties and 17 lead changes in regulation alone, and they headed to overtime tied at 66 after Zak Irvin pulled MI even on a layup with 4.2 seconds left, before Wilson blocked a 3-point attempt at the buzzer. Wisconsin did not allow the Wolverines any offensive rebounds in the first half and the Badgers shot 54 percent from the field.

"When they played us in our building, they had a little more of a sense of urgency", said Hayes, whose team will face MI in the Big Ten championship game. MI shot 53.8% after halftime (14 of 26) and finished at 56.3% (27 of 48).

That started a 13-2 run during which Brown scored six points, Trice hit a three-pointer, Showalter had a basket and a steal and Happ finished in the lane off a feed from Trice. Sunday, the maize and blue beating the Wisconsin Badgers 71-56, behind a game-high 22 points from Derrick Walton Jr. Having a confident Koenig hitting from the 3-point line should force defenses to think twice about doubling Happ and Hayes.

The Wolverines have done an wonderful job climbing the seed line this conference tournament.

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Ball movement and balance were keys. Zak Irvin has 12, while D.J. Wilson has 11. It was Zak Irvin in the early going, as he hit his first three shots by finishing a couple tricky layups and hitting a nifty jumper to help MI build a 19-13 lead.

Minnesota had one last gasp, but Walton sank four free throws to give the Wolverines a 82-75 lead with 33.3 seconds left.

Freshman Miles Bridges led Michigan State (19-14) with 20 points.

UW's offensive execution was dismal for nearly the entire second half.

MI was in dire need of a bucket, and on the ensuing possession after a timeout, the shot clock was winding down.

Minnesota (24-8) made a late push, getting within three with under a minute to go, but Walton and Zak Irvin were dead-eye free-throw shooters, sealing the win.

The veteran mentor, who has coached at every level of college hoops, choked up as he spoke about his team that survived an aborted airport takeoff Wednesday in MI that delayed its arrival to the nation's capital just before its first game Thursday.

Another NCAA issue: This week's MI high school girls' tournament semifinals and finals might well be the last to be played in the Breslin Center.

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