Sunday, February 16, 2014

Michigan's comeback falls short, Badgers knock off Wolverines in Ann Arbor

No. 15 Michigan 62, No. 21 Wisconsin 75

The Wolverines have taken care of business on the road this season, notching wins in Madison, East Lansing and Columbus; on Sunday, Michigan's season became about defending its home court. 

The No. 21 Wisconsin Badgers rolled into Ann Arbor this afternoon with a three-game winning streak, on the heels of a 1-5 stretch. Wisconsin's defense tightened up after that brutal stretch and, lo and behold, the Badgers got back on the winning track. 

However, winning at home (or on the road against a team like Illinois) is a different animal from winning in Ann Arbor against the team tied for the top spot in the conference standings. 

The Badgers clearly came ready to play, as they jumped out to an early 12-2 lead, paced by a pair of threes from Josh Gasser. The script was a little different this time around; this time, the Badgers were the ones shooting the lights out early in the game. 

Meanwhile, Michigan struggled on the offensive end, with just seven points by the second media timeout. Also, as is Wisconsin's defensive style, the Wolverines didn't have a single three-point attempt to their name by that point in the game. 

Michigan had no answer for Frank Kaminsky on the block and the slashing Sam Dekker, either. The Badgers are by no means a great offensive rebounding team --in fact, Bo Ryan de-emphasizes it in favor of getting back on defense-- but UW had six offensive boards through 11 minutes or so of play. If the Wolverines couldn't find a way to clean up on the glass and toughen up on the block, it appeared as if the Badgers were poised to upset them in Ann Arbor. 

Michigan continued to take the long twos Wisconsin routinely offers, but, unlike the matchup in Madison, the Wolverines couldn't connect. More importantly, the Badgers consistently held Michigan to one-and-done. 

With UW dominating every aspect of the game in the first half, the Wolverines might have been lucky to be down "just" 34-19 at the break. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Badgers cruise in West Lafayette, snap 3-game losing streak

No. 9 Wisconsin 72, Purdue 58

When the Badgers and Boilermakers took the floor at Mackey Arena today, both looked to rebound: literally and figuratively. 

The Badgers, after a program record 16-0 start, dropped their last three games (at Indiana, Michigan and at Minnesota). Meanwhile, Purdue rolled into Evanston with a three-game winning streak Tuesday night only to leave with a loss, an ugly 63-60 double overtime defeat. 

While the Boilermakers were not considered to be Big Ten title contenders, a win against a top 10 Wisconsin team would do wonders for its tournament seed (Big Ten and Big Dance). 

As for Bo Ryan's Badgers, a fourth straight loss would not only certainly knock them out of the top 10, it would, in all likelihood , knock them out of the Big Ten regular season title race. 

Unlike UW's trip to Minneapolis, the Bagders had a good deal more pep in their collective step today in West Lafayette. The Badgers jumped out to a 17-6 lead five minutes into the first half. However, the biggest early development was A.J. Hammons going to the bench with two fouls just a minute and a half into the game. 

A few minutes later, UW's Frank Kaminsky picked up his second as well; the Badgers struggled mightily without Kaminsky on the floor in The Barn, so the Badgers' balance would once again be tested. 

The Badgers led 20-13 halfway through the half, and while it was still early, the Badgers' defense was several shades better than it had been against Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota. Thirteen minutes into the half, Purdue was shooting just 35 percent (7-for-20) from the field. 

To make matters worse for the Boilers, Matt Painter rolled the dice by playing Hammons in spite of his foul situation. It backfired, as Hammons picked up his third foul with 9:51 left in the half. Without Hammons on the floor, Purdue would have to make shots from the outside. Coming into today's game, Purdue ranked just 7th in the Big Ten in three-point percentage during conference play (32.7 percent). 

Defensively, Purdue was up to the challenge, particularly after the Badgers' hot start from the field. The Boilermakers went into the half down 32-29, despite not having Hammons on the floor very much at all (zero first half points). 

No. 10 Iowa rolls in Evanston, handles upset-minded Wildcats

Fouad Egbaria

Northwestern 50, No. 10 Iowa 76

When the Northwestern Wildcats and Iowa Hawkeyes in their current forms meet, the difference in philosophy is stark. The Wildcats, like pre-2013-14 Wisconsin, play tough defense and slow the game down. The Hawkeyes want to run, run, run. 

Don't look now, but after a brutal home loss against DePaul and three straight thumpings at the hands of Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, Chris Collins's Wildcats have won three of their last four, including a competitive 54-40 loss against Michigan State. Size, skill and depth isn't quite there yet for Northwestern, but their identity is very clear, a crucial development for a program under a first-year head coach. 

When the Wildcats went to Iowa City on Jan. 9, they lost 93-67, allowing the Hawkeyes to score a whopping 1.29 points per possession. They'd have to do a little better than that this afternoon in Welsh-Ryan if they planned on coming away with their fourth win in five games, a win that would, amazingly, move them to 4-4 in the Big Ten. 

Paced by a couple of early threes from Drew Crawford, the Wildcats did just enough to muck things up so that Iowa couldn't run away with things from the start. By the 12-minute media timeout the Hawkeyes led 14-10; however, in typical Iowa fashion, seven different Hawkeyes had scored to get those 14. 

The Hawkeyes eventually surged to a 23-15 lead--it seemed as if Northwestern's hopes of staying in the game were evaporating fast. 

The Wildcats weren't done yet. A Drew Crawford and-1 with just over a minute left cut the Iowa lead to 28-24. After a Melsahn Basabe jumper in the paint with a few seconds left in the half, the Wildcats went into the halftime break down 30-24. All things considered, that is a win for an offensively challenged Northwestern squad against an Iowa team with scoring options all over the floor. 

Of course, the Wildcats would have to turn up the defensive intensity even further in the second half if they were going to pull off their biggest upset yet. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Iowa

Michigan left Madison on Saturday with its first win at the Kohl Center since 1999; naturally, it wasn't hard to picture the Wolverines throwing out a letdown game their next time on the court.

Luckily for John Beilein and Co., that was most definitely not the case against Iowa on Wednesday night in the Crisler Center, where the Wolverines defeated No. 10 Iowa, 75-67. As usual, I recapped it over at Maize n Brew.

Michigan is perfect a third of the way through the Big Ten schedule, one of only two remaining squads without a Big Ten loss. The other? Of course, the Michigan State Spartans, Michigan's opponent this Saturday.

Like many will express throughout the rest of this week, after wins at Wisconsin and against Iowa, Michigan is basically playing with house money this Saturday. With that said, a win in the Breslin Center would push Michigan's post-McGary-injury run from "unexpectedly great" to "transcendent." Hopefully the Wolverines learned a thing or two from the thumping they took there last season.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Recapping Wisconsin

In spite of my extreme skepticism, Michigan went to Madison on Saturday and won for the first time since 1999. As usual, I threw down some thoughts over at Maize n Brew.

It has been over 48 hours since the game ended, and, quite honestly, I'm still a little shocked. Not necessarily shocked that Michigan won, even though I had thought it an unlikely outcome. I was more surprised by how brutally efficient and downright unfair Michigan was on the offensive end. Watching it unfold live, it was almost too good to be true. Michigan's drought in the second half, when the Badgers made the run, was the only indicator of Michigan's mortality in this game. For the better part of two hours, the Wolverines were unstoppable.

This team doesn't have Trey Burke, but that's okay: they've got Nik Stauskas.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Shameless Self-Promotion Time: Wisconsin

file photo

Michigan heads to the Kohl Center tomorrow, a place where they've had no success in recent years. The Wolverines will attempt to break a 12-game losing streak at the Kohl Center against the No. 3 Badgers, who are coming off of their first loss of the season, a high-scoring affair in Bloomington on Tuesday.

As such, I wrote up a little something about Michigan's struggles at the Kohl Center over at Maize n Brew.

Also, my standard Wisconsin game preview is also available for your perusal at MnB.

The game tips off at 6:00 ET and will be televised on ESPN.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Michigan hockey heads to Madison for first two-game series against Badgers since 1981

Fouad Egbaria

The No. 8 Michigan Wolverines (10-4-2) head to Madison tonight to take on the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers (11-6-1) for the first game of a weekend double-header. This weekend marks the beginning of the Big Ten schedule for the Wolverines; if you're still holding onto any CCHA nostalgia, this weekend might be a good time to let it go.

The puck drops at 9 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

After spending time in the top 5, the Wolverines dropped down to No. 8 after losing both games at the Great Lakes Invitational against Western Michigan and Michigan State, two unranked teams. It's a long season and letdowns are bound to happen, but this weekend's series at the Kohl Center will go a long way toward restoring the good feelings Michigan had before the GLI.

On the bright side, Michigan does get Andrew Copp back; he missed the GLI while he represented the United States at the World Junior Championship in Sweden. Copp leads the Wolverines with nine goals this season.

Meanwhile, the Badgers started the season being predicted by most to finish second in the new Big Ten hockey league, ahead of Michigan but behind Minnesota. Unfortunately for Mike Eaves and Co., the season to date hasn't gone as smoothly as expected.

The Badgers kicked off the season with a pair of wins against Northern Michigan but then took a pair of brutal losses in Massachusetts on consecutive nights, losing to BC 9-2 and to BU 7-3.

They then lost three of four games at Miami and Minnesota. However, things have turned up for the Badgers since then. Since the 4-3 loss at Minnesota on Nov. 30, the Badgers have won seven of eight, facing Penn State, Colorado College, Alabama-Huntsville and Alaska-Anchorage. In that span, the Badgers did drop their first home game of the season, a 3-2 loss against Alaska-Anchorage.

Just like on the hardwood, the Badgers are a tough out on the Kohl Center ice, and Michigan will certainly have its hands full. On the injury front, Wisconsin will be without sophomore Nic Kerdiles, who is third on the squad in goals with eight (17 points). Senior F Sean Little is also out. Kerdiles' absence is an unfortunate one, as you'd always like to face a quality opponent when they're at their best.

Senior F Mark Zengerle leads the the team in points (20), but has just two goals to his name. Senior F Michael Mersch leads the squad with 11 goals; senior F Tyler Barnes is second on the team with eight goals.

According to Bucky's 5th Quarter, Joel Rumpel is likely to get the nod in net. Rumpel has started nine games (appeared in 10) and boasts a GAA of 1.93 and a save percentage of .928.

Michigan boasts a 4-1-1 record on the road this season, but this weekend's trip to Wisconsin's capital city will present their toughest test yet.
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For more, check out Bucky's 5th Quarter's excellent preview. Also check out this MGoBlue piece on the renewal of the rivalry