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Feb 6, 2024 2:20 am

Free-falling Michigan hosts No. 11 Wisconsin

Wisconsin Badgers

Michigan has an offense that can match just about any Division I team. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, No. 11 Wisconsin, which visits Wednesday night for a Big Ten game in Ann Arbor, Mich., does everything much better — especially win.

It doesn’t help that Michigan (7-15, 2-9 Big Ten) is on a miserable run. After starting the season 3-0, the Wolverines have lost 15 of the last 19 — having blown big leads in many of the games.

Wisconsin (16-6, 8-3) has dropped its last two games as its ranking fell from No. 6 to No. 11 in the Top 25 rankings.

If the Wolverines, who are averaging 77.0 points per game, can find a way to get a lead in Wednesday’s game, they’ll need to finally find a way to keep it. Michigan has lost 10 of its last 11 games but could have won several of them.

Since Dec. 29, the Wolverines have blown leads in losses to Minnesota (seven-point lead), Penn State (14-point lead), Maryland (12-point lead), Iowa (nine-point lead), Michigan State (nine-point lead) and on Sunday, Rutgers (15-point lead).

Michigan coach Juwan Howard said his team hasn’t given up, despite this being the Wolverines’ worst season since the 2007-08 team went 10-22.

“If you really care about winning, fix it and come together,” Howard said. “I liked what I saw … where the group was talking, they were huddled up. That shows a sign of togetherness. But we’ve got to do it for 40 minutes.”

The 40 minutes is the hard part for Michigan, and Wisconsin will make the Wolverines work, particularly in guarding the 3-point line — where the Badgers have shot 34.9 percent on the season.

But Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said the Badgers’ willingness to pull the trigger from behind the arc may have worked against them in Sunday’s 75-69 home loss to No. 2 Purdue.

Said Gard: “At times we got jump-shot happy. It’s great when they’re going in, but it can be fools’ gold. … “It’s not gonna last, and it’s not gonna work over the long haul against really good teams.”

Wisconsin’s seven-foot junior Steven Crowl questioned the Badgers’ shot selection in the Purdue defeat.

“I think it could’ve been a lot better,” Crowl said. “And that’s not just one or two people, it’s everyone. Whether it’s me down low, or any of the guards on the outside, it’s a group effort.”

Crowl is one of Purdue’s best 3-point shooters despite his position, hitting 48.3 percent of his 3-pointers (14 of 29), while guards Max Klesmit (41.8 percent) and AJ Storr (31.9 percent) are Wisconsin’s top outside threats.

Wisconsin also plays stingy defense, holding opponents to 67.8 points per game.

Michigan will benefit from having dynamic sophomore point guard Dug McDaniel available for this game. McDaniel is serving a six-game road suspension for academic issues, but he’s still the Wolverines’ leading scorer at 16.8 points per game.

Grad forward Olivier Nkamhoua, who has four double-doubles this season, is picking up some of the slack with averages of 15.9 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

Senior forward Terrance Williams II checks in with 12.5 points per game for the Wolverines.

–Field Level Media

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