Michigan has a big-time point guard in Trey Burke and an athletic lineup that includes Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III — a recipe for a long run in the NCAA tournament.
Yet the sixth-ranked Wolverines have struggled down the stretch and did so again Friday as Wisconsin shot 61 percent in the second half of a 68-59 victory that ousted Michigan in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament. At least the Wolverines have plenty of time to think about where they might end up.
"We really have to grow defensively," coach John Belein said. "In the second half they just scored at will. That would be the big thing. We'll fix it the best we can. We've been trying it all year long. There's a process we all have to go through to get better at it and hopefully we can shore up enough to keep playing for a long time."
Burke had 19 points and seven assists for Michigan (26-7), but the Big Ten player of the year was 8 for 22 from the field. Hardaway shook off a leg injury in the first half and finished with 14 points and nine boards.
The Wolverines have lost two of three and split their last 12 games overall, not a good way to roll into Selection Sunday.
"Just continuing to grow and continuing to grow as a team on defense," Burke said when asked what the team needs to do before the NCAA tourney. "I think today we didn't have the best defensive game. I think we got a lot of really good looks. It wasn't really our offense. It was really just playing team defense and sticking together when we needed each other."
Ben Brust scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half for Wisconsin (22-10), which will play top-seeded Indiana in the semifinals on Saturday. Traevon Jackson had 16 points, and Ryan Evans added 12 points, six rebounds and six assists.
"Just a great team effort," coach Bo Ryan said. "Guys picked each other up. They didn't get frustrated when the shots weren't going down in the first half. We took care of that in the second half, and continued to hustle on defense."
The Wolverines advanced with an 83-66 victory over Penn State on Thursday, setting up a sequel to one of the best games of the season. Wisconsin rallied for a 65-62 victory over Michigan on Feb. 9 when Brust hit a tying 3-pointer from just inside midcourt at the end of regulation, then hit another big 3 with 39 seconds left in overtime.
This one was lacking that sort of drama, but still had a compelling finish.
Wisconsin finally found its shooting stroke in the second half, putting together a 10-0 run to take a 29-24 lead with 15:09 to go. Brust hit a 3-pointer, Jared Berggren converted two layups and Frank Kaminsky capped the run with another 3. Michigan tried to rally, but Wisconsin had an answer each time. And the Badgers had a couple of different players step up at crucial points.
Mike Bruesewitz and Brust each hit a big 3-pointer. Evans wriggled free for a layup and a jumper to extend the lead to 49-42 with 7:56 left. Brust tacked on another 3 from the corner to extend Wisconsin's lead to 11, forcing a Michigan timeout with 6:01 remaining.
"We wanted to go inside out, and that's how we started the half," Evans said. "I started with a bucket, and they had to collapse. Then our 3-pointers, Mike and Ben — it was good to see Mike get going today."
The Wolverines then put together a 9-0 run to get within 56-54, but Kaminsky made a pull-up jumper as the final seconds of the shot clock ticked off. Burke then missed inside, Jackson went 1 for 2 at the line to make it a five-point game, and the Badgers closed it out from there.
"We had some chances to take the game back over and get back in front and we just couldn't do it," Beilein said. "A lot of that has to do with how we develop as a team and a lot has to do with how talented a team Wisconsin really is."
Michigan got a scare midway through the first half when Hardaway twisted his left ankle when he got his foot caught under Bruesewitz after he attempted a floater in the lane. He had to be helped to the locker room, but he returned a couple minutes later, earning a round of applause from the sellout crowd.
"It was hurting for a little bit when I came back out, but it loosened up while I was playing on it and it got better while the game was going on," he said.
The contrasting styles of the high-scoring Wolverines and defensive-minded Badgers were on full display during an ugly first half that featured almost as many turnovers (14) as field goals (15).
Burke helped send a charge through the crowd with a long alley-oop to a streaking Hardaway, who soared in for the dunk with 11:49 to go. Hardaway saluted the crowd as he bounded down the court after the big jam.
But Berggren immediately dunked on the other end for Wisconsin, and the Badgers used their stifling defense to stick around despite an awful shooting display. Jackson hit a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left to trim Michigan's lead to 20-17 at the break.
The halftime statistics were alarming for both sides. The Badgers were 5 for 29 from the field, but the Wolverines were only slightly better at 10 for 29. Michigan missed all five of its foul shots and committed eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
"It's the old cliche, defense wins championships," Evans said. "We understand that here. Anything we can do to slow those guys down and get our shots will move us forward."
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap