Ann Arbor – In the end, Michigan would lose a match.
There hasn’t been a perfect season in men’s college basketball in over 40 years, and in the rugged Big Ten, the Wolverines are bound to get away at some point.
For now, Wolverine seems invincible.
It was the last fair Tuesday 77-54 win over No. 9 Wisconsin. Like many of Michigan’s recent gains, this win was far more unbalanced than the already imbalanced result indicates. Michigan leads by up to 40 points.
The game followed similar script to the Michigan bombing in Minnesota and Northwestern last week.
If beating three consecutive ranking teams by at least 19 points seems like some kind of record, ESPN says Michigan is actually the first team to do so.
“Awesome,” Michigan coach Joan Howard said after telling him this hard block. “I hope our men don’t overdo it.”
As much as Michigan plays (11-0, 6-0), Howard knows that doesn’t mean much. Several times this season, including Tuesday, he mentioned his desire to be the last team standing in April.
The Wolverines’ Championship goals seem achievable thanks to their focus on the daily grind.
Michigan’s motto this week was “Never tire of basics,” a quote Howard borrowed from Kobe Bryant.
Transformations were an issue for Wolverines. They only committed eight against Wisconsin, which is their lowest score in the Big Ten. They split the ball – four different Wolverines attempted between 9 and 11 shots and scored double digits – and turned simple plays into highlights.
Michigan’s breakup of the Badgers (and Gophers and Wildcats before that) goes beyond basics.
Michigan achieved 9 out of 16 3 seconds on Tuesday, with six players connecting from deep within. The Wolverines fired five shots in the first nine minutes and finished with eight refusals, the length of which again annoyed the opponent.
He advanced three points late in the first half and became 17 by the first half. The 22-0 lead early in the second half led to a blast.
Michigan has a killer instinct, and striker Franz Wagner credited the coaches for instilling that mentality. “We continue to play our game regardless of whether we are backwards, up, or 25.”
Howard said he could hear players in the locker room in half reminding each other not to give up, to treat the match as if it were tied up. “They hold each other accountable,” Howard said.
The big races couldn’t happen without stopping, and the Michigan Badgers were forced to take on their worst offensive performance of the season. Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said Michigan had put the Badgers in their wake.
Senior Michigan striker Isaiah Leavers, who scored 13 goals on Tuesday, saw Michigan’s defensive potential over the summer, during the scuffles. “I’m trying to get a shot and I can’t get it,” he remembers.
The Badger shot only 31 percent. Five of the nine ultimately scored 3 seconds and four of six free throw attempts came in the last ten minutes, after Michigan pushed their lead to 40 points.
After the win, Michigan climbed to third in the NCAA world rankings, behind the undefeated Gonzaga and Baylor.
Howard was pleased with how difficult it would be to play Michigan on Tuesday, but he still sees room for improvement. He will earn his salary by coming up with this list before his next practice.