Wilson, Hughes lead Badgers back from second-half deficit
With their long-range shots again failing to fall Wednesday night, the No. 18 Badgers turned to star guard Trevon Hughes and unheralded backup Rob Wilson to lead a late scoring surge in a 54-48 victory over Michigan.
“That’s really what we needed. We needed somebody to hit shots, and make sure we knew that there wasn’t something covering the rim,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said.
Hughes scored 20 points and Wilson added a career-high 13 off the bench for the Badgers (15-4, 5-2 Big Ten), who won despite shooting a miserable 4 for 24 from 3-point range.
DeShawn Sims scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Wolverines (10-8, 3-3), who were coming off a victory over then-No. 15 Connecticut on Sunday.
Michigan went cold when it mattered most against Wisconsin, scoring only five points in the final 5 minutes.
“I’m looking them in the eyes and saying, ‘One of you has to step up and make an open shot here now.’ Because all of a sudden we went dry,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “And it just never happened.”
Things don’t get much easier from here for the Wolverines, who play at No. 13 Purdue, then get No. 6 Michigan State at home.
“It’s deflating because we wanted to win that game,” Sims said. “And it’s deflating because we were really there.”
The Badgers have been hoisting more 3-pointers since Leuer, the team’s second-leading scorer, had surgery on his left wrist earlier this month. But they haven’t been making many of them.
Wisconsin shot a combined 16 for 52 from 3-point range in the previous two games, a victory at Northwestern and a loss at Ohio State. But those games looked like a coach’s clinic compared to Wednesday’s miserable performance.
Will Wisconsin continue to rely on long-range shooting in Leuer’s absence?
“Who knows?” Ryan said. “We’re just going to keep finding ways.”
Even without the 6-foot-10 Leuer, Hughes said the Badgers have to get back to driving the lane and getting the ball into the post instead of shooting 3s.
“We’re going to have to change that,” Hughes said. “We know that.”
Michigan led 39-30 after back-to-back 3-pointers by Stu Douglass, but Wisconsin went on a 13-4 run—including nine points by Wilson—to tie it at 43 with 4:04 left.
Hughes had only one message for Wilson after the game: It’s about time.
“We see that,” Hughes said. “We see glimpses of it in practice.”
Wilson didn’t deny that he hasn’t carried his practice performances over to games.
“I guess today’s the day I broke out of the shell,” Wilson said.
Hughes took it from there, hitting a long jumper and scoring on a driving layup with the shot clock running down to give the Badgers a 47-43 lead with 2:12 left.
Keaton Nankivil then drew a charge from Sims, and Wilson hit a pair of free throws to put the game out of reach.
“We started to miss shots, and I don’t know if it was lack of focus on defense, but they just made some big shots—off the drive and penetration or getting us into foul trouble,” said Michigan’s Manny Harris, who scored 11 points and shot 4 for 14 from the floor.
The Badgers got off to a miserable start on offense, missing their first eight shots from the floor before Mike Bruesewitz finally scored at the 13:56 mark. Michigan led 21-18 at halftime as Wisconsin shot 8 for 25 from the floor and 1 for 10 from 3-point range in the first half.
When a reporter suggested that Wisconsin struggled from the floor, Ryan suggested he was being kind.
But Ryan said his players didn’t hang their heads.
“You can’t,” Ryan said. “Defensively, you have to keep going toe to toe and hang in there.”