ANN ARBOR, Mich. — With the way Bernard Robinson Jr. and his Wolverine mates were shooting the ball, the Badgers would have needed a near-flawless effort to upend UM head coach Tommy Amaker’s club on their home floor Sunday.
Michigan was a sizzling 15-20 from the floor in the contest’s first stanza and entered halftime with a 38-30 lead.
While they came out of the gates a little slowly, the Wolverines were simply lights-out during the first half’s final 7:20 — a stretch in which they out-scored the Badgers 22-8.
“They scored 20-some points in seven minutes and some seconds in that blitz,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “There was one in transition and then the three [3-pointers]. And that was 20-some points on about 10, 11 possessions. You just can’t be successful when you’re doing that defensively.”
The Wolverines carried their shooting touch into the second half and began pounding the ball inside with greater frequency.
With UW junior forward Mike Wilkinson, arguably the team’s best post defender, saddled with early foul trouble, the Wolverines’ formidable front line instantly went to work.
Freshmen forwards Courtney Sims and Brent Petway were the Maize and Blue’s greatest exploiters of this hole in the Wisconsin defense.
The two combined to score just one point and failed to even attempt a field goal between them in the game’s first half, but finished the game a collective 7-10 from the floor and netted 21 of the Wolverines’ 33 second-half points.
But while Sims and Petway stood out on the game’s stat sheet, the Wolverines just seemed to have an endless supply of talented, physical big men.
“That’s where the difference was, inside,” Ryan said. “They are long, and they just kept bringing them out. And if a guy wasn’t long, he had a 49-inch vertical. So, anything they got inside, that was really tough for us to stop.”
Aside from Wilkinson’s foul trouble, the Wolverines were also afforded the luxury of playing a more elaborate, conservative offense because of the lead they maintained throughout much of the contest.
Rather than relying on Lester Abram, Bernard Robinson Jr. and Daniel Horton — who rank as the team’s top three scorers, respectively — to knock down perimeter jumpers to merely keep the Wolverines in the game, they instead utilized their skills as post-entry passers and slashing scorers to maintain Michigan’s steady lead.
“I thought our ball movement was great today,” Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker said. “We didn’t rely a lot on the [3-pointer]; you can see the number of 3-point shots we took (11). But that’s because we were up by a few points and were trying to be a little more efficient at the offensive end. I thought our players really responded well to that. I thought we ran really good offense, and we got good shots.”
The next game on Michigan’s slate comes Tuesday, when Amaker’s squad plays one of its most highly anticipated games of the season: a home matchup with instate rival Michigan State.
With the way the Wolverines have been shooting and spreading the ball around, the Spartans could have their hands full picking up their fourth consecutive win.
“I mean, some of those athletes out there … Tommy (Amaker) is getting them to understand what they need to be doing with that quickness and that length, and they’re doing a better job of it,” Coach Ryan said. “I don’t think they’re going to let too many people come in here and have it easily. I don’t know who they have next, but whoever is coming in here to play them better be ready.”