Madison, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - Having recently suffered their first loss of the season, the third-ranked Wisconsin Badgers are hoping for a return to form as they entertain the Michigan Wolverines in Big Ten Conference action on Saturday evening.
Michigan hasn't had quite the success its counterpart here has, but the team has still had a nice first half of the season, going 12-4 overall and winning each of its first four conference bouts. The Wolverines are in the midst of the six-game win streak, but they are just 2-2 in true road games so there is some reason to pause as they turn their attention to one of the top teams not only in the Big Ten, but the nation as well. Michigan defeated Penn State the last time out, 80-67.
Bo Ryan's Badgers had jumped out to a 16-0 start, marking the best opening run in program history, but that was before pulling into Bloomington this past Tuesday to take on the Indiana Hoosiers. Wisconsin fell in that conference clash, 75-72, and the team is hoping to start a new streak tonight, as it is a perfect 10-0 at home this season.
Michigan owns an 87-69 lead in the all-time series with Wisconsin, although the Badgers have had the upper hand in Madison (46-32). The teams will meet again in Ann Arbor on Feb. 16 to complete the regular-season series.
Michigan certainly has talent on the roster, as evidenced by the fact that six players average roughly seven ppg or better. Nik Stauskas paces the unit with 17.7 ppg, and he is also its primary playmaker with 56 assists. Glenn Robinson III (13.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Caris LeVert (11.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.9 apg) round out the double-digit scorers for the Wolverines, who are putting up 77.3 ppg on the strength of their 48.4 percent shooting effort, which includes a 38.3 percent showing from 3-point range. Defensively, the team yields 63.1 ppg, as foes are dropping 42.8 percent of their total shots, and UM is +2.7 in rebounding margin and +3.1 in turnovers.
Stauskas hit for 21 points, Derrick Walton, Jr. had 16, Robinson III 15 and Jon Horford 11 for the Wolverines, who prevailed in their recent bout with Penn State. Michigan made good on 53.8 percent of its field goal attempts, nailing nine treys in the process, and it went 15-of-19 at the free-throw line. Both teams took very good of the basketball, with the Nittany Lions only committing nine turnovers and the Wolverines six.
Any time you go undefeated this late into a season, odds are you're doing a tremendous job in all facets of the game, and that is certainly the case with the job turned in by the Badgers to this point. While the team recently had its first taste of defeat, there is no discounting the favorable margins in scoring (+14.2), rebounding (+2.9) and turnovers (+2.1) it has experienced, and there are four highly-productive players to thank for that. Sam Dekker leads the way in scoring with 14.0 ppg, and he is tied with Frank Kaminsky, the team's second-leading scorer (13.5 ppg), for the team lead on the glass with 6.1 rpg. Ben Brust (13.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg) and Traevon Jackson (11.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.2 apg) complete a quarter of double-digit scorers for the Badgers.
In the recent loss to Indiana, Jackson poured in 21 points to lead all five starters in double figures, but the Badgers went just 1-of-4 at the foul line and 7-of-23 from 3-point range. Kaminsky came up one rebound shy of a double- double, as he finished with 11 points and nine boards. Both teams shot better than 51 percent from the field, and they combined for 19 turnovers.