MADISON, Wis. — A frantic possession near the midway point of the second half Sunday afternoon left shooting guard Eli Brooks trapped in the corner. He found reprieve in the form of center Hunter Dickinson along the left sideline, but the leading scorer for Michigan basketball misfired from beyond the arc.
The Wolverines gathered an offensive rebound and found Brooks alone at the top of the key for another 3-point attempt. After he missed, and after another offensive rebound, the ball was whipped to point guard DeVante’ Jones in the left corner. He launched Michigan’s third 3-pointer of the possession and heard the back rim clang to signal a third consecutive miss.
A first half in which coach Juwan Howard’s team rode Dickinson for nearly 50% of its points gave way to a love affair with perimeter shooting for a team that rarely succeeds in that aspect. The Wolverines attempted 15 shots from beyond the arc in the second half, making three, and fell behind as Wisconsin star Johnny Davis ripped their defense apart at the other end, pouring in a game-high 25 points. By the time it ended, Michigan had been outscored by 14 in the second half en route to a 77-63 loss.
But after the game, Howard had words for Wisconsin coach Greg Gard and a shoving match ensued between the two during the postgame handshakes. Howard then struck Badgers assistant Joe Krabbenhoft in the face and a fight ensued involving players and coaches.
For the Wolverines, power forward Moussa Diabate and small forward Terrance Williams II both were swinging. The Kohl Center crowd shouted “N-I-T, N-I-T” after the teams were separated.
Gard said postgame he had called a timeout with 15 seconds remaining to deal with Michigan’s full-court press, which angered Howard, who will likely face major discipline for his postgame antics. Howard did not apologize during his news conference after the game.
Michigan hosts Rutgers on Wednesday and Illinois on Sunday.
Dickinson led U-M with 21 points, limited to six in the second half. Brooks (14 points) and Jones (11 points) were the only other players in double figures.
It was an unsightly ending for Diabate, whose confidence was surging after he scored a career-high 28 points in the win over Iowa. The Badgers schemed to defend him by exploiting the freshman’s overexuberance. Nine times this season, Diabate has committed four or more fouls in a game, including each of the past two, and Wisconsin accentuated his propensity for early mistakes.
From the opening tip, power forward Tyler Wahl attacked Diabate on the offensive end of the floor by backing into the lane and then pivoting his way to open space. Wahl scored a spinning layup over Diabate before the initial media timeout and later drew the first foul near the midway point of the half. At the other end, where Diabate was averaging 17.3 points per game over the last three, Wahl absorbed his left shoulder for an offensive foul that sent Diabate to the bench with 9:08 remaining.
Dickinson began imposing himself as Diabate watched from the bench, shedding the distributor role he played while dishing seven assists against the Hawkeyes and scoring 15 points in the first half. He flashed his trademark soft touch on a pick-and-roll floater following a feed from Jones. He scored back-to-back hook shots with his favorite left hand. He cherished the chance for an easy basket over the diminutive Brad Davison, who shifted onto Dickinson after a switch, and then gestured to the student section as he retreated down the floor.
Though tied 31-all at the half, the Wolverines slipped behind in the second thanks in large part to questionable shot selection that saw them shy away from Dickinson in favor of ill-conceived 3-pointers. Howard’s team made one of 10 shots from beyond the arc in the first half but then repeatedly settled for 3-point tries after the break, including nine in the opening 10 minutes. Dickinson attempted only three shots during that stretch, one of which was a missed perimeter jumper.
Such frigid shooting allowed the Badgers to mount the type of game-changing run Michigan had succeeded in limiting recently, a positive development noted by Dickinson during a recent news conference. But as the misfires from 3-point range mounted, Davis seized control through a series of slashing layups that underscored the quickness of his first step.
Beginning with a short jumper at the 11:04 mark of the second half, Davis pieced together a personal 7-0 run that expanded an eight-point Wisconsin lead into a 15-point chasm from which U-M had no chance to recover. Brooks, who became the primary defender, was routinely beaten off the dribble on drives from the top of the key and had to shout for help as Davis knifed through the lane. After an early 7-2 spurt by Michigan in the opening minutes of the half, the Badgers outscored them 46-25 for the remainder of the game.
Then came the handshake line, where tempers flared and punches were thrown as U-M headed home.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball no match for Wisconsin; Juwan Howard hits opponent