Badgers fall to Michigan, sink to 1-3 in Big Ten
It deepens not by inches or feet but rather by missed shot, after missed shot, after missed shot.
“It is baffling to think that we could get that many shots in the paint, wide-open jumpers,” UW coach Bo Ryan said Sunday after the Badgers struggled through a third consecutive ugly offensive performance, this one resulting in 59-41 loss at Michigan.
“They’re just beating themselves up mentally. We’ve got to get through this.”
Let’s be blunt. If the Badgers (12-5, 1-3 Big Ten) don’t find a means to score consistently, the race for the Big Ten title will go on without them.
UW is 1-3 in league play for the first time since the 2000-’01 season. That came under the direction of interim coach Brad Soderberg, who was promoted after Dick Bennett retired.
UW shot 34.8 percent in a 72-65 loss to Iowa on Dec. 31 and 33.3 percent in a 63-60 overtime loss to Michigan State on Tuesday. The Badgers followed those clunkers by shooting 31.4 percent against the Wolverines (13-3, 3-1), who entered the day allowing 45.7 percent shooting in league play.
“Work harder; forget about,” guard Jordan Taylor, who led UW with 12 points but missed 10 of 15 field-goal attempts, said when asked to describe the remedy for the shooting woes. “We’ve all made shots before.
“Right now, they’re not falling for any of us. The only thing you can do is get in the gym and try to improve that.”
The point total for UW was the lowest in a regular-season game under Ryan, who is in his 11th season at UW. The lowest came last season in the Big Ten tournament, a 36-33 loss to Penn State.
UW was awful from three-point range in the losses to Iowa and Michigan State, shooting a combined 16.0 percent (8 of 50).
That wasn’t the issue Sunday as UW made 7 of 20 three-pointers (35 percent) but struggled inside the arc, particularly in the lane.
UW hit just 7 of 17 shots (41.2 percent) in the lane and as a result did little damage at the free-throw line (2 of 5).
Forward Jared Berggren made 1 of 6 field-goal attempts, with only one three-point attempt. Forward Ryan Evans made 3 of 9 field-goal attempts.
“In practice the last couple days I was finishing my inside moves and knocking down some outside shots,” said Berggren, who is 11 of 37 in the last three games. “I felt fine in practice. Got to the game and wasn’t able knock them down.
“Some of the post moves could have been stronger, to the basket a little bit more instead of fading away and being off-balance.
“We have to power to the rim, draw some fouls and maybe get some three-point plays.”
Three players shot at least 40 percent for UW—forward Mike Bruesewitz (2 of 5, six points), guard Josh Gasser (2 of 5, four points) and guard Ben Brust (2 of 3 three-pointers, six points).
However, they combined for only 13 of UW’s 51 field-goal attempts. Outside of that trio, the other six players used by Ryan shot a combined 10 of 38.
“I need to do a better job of making some decisions,” said Taylor who had one assist and three turnovers “And there were a few passes I made that were off target.
“(But) I’m never going to stop passing to guys that are open. I trust my teammates 100 percent of the time.”
Guard Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Michigan, which snapped a 10-game losing streak to UW.
Freshman guard Trey Burke added 14 points and tight defense on Taylor and guard Zack Novak added 10 points.
The Wolverines shot just 39.6 percent, below their mark of 44.2 percent in league play and were held below 60 points for only the fourth time this season.
However, their defense was good enough to hold UW to two points in the first 7 minutes, 23 seconds of the game and scoreless for the first 4:59 of the second half.
Michigan led by six points at halftime, by 13 after UW’s scoring drought continued to start the second half and by as many as 19 points after that.
“We just tried to contest shots,” Novak said.
Even when given uncontested shots, UW’s shooters were off again.
“Guys have been shooting the ball well in practice,” Bruesewitz said. “When the lights come on, somebody’s got to knock some down.”