Ann Arbor, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - Hoping to keep pace atop the Big Ten Conference standings, the sixth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers take on the Michigan Wolverines at Crisler Arena on Saturday night.
Wisconsin routed another member of the Top-25 in its most recent outing, whipping the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes in an 82-50 final this past Tuesday. As a result, the Badgers sit at 17-2 overall, matching the second-best start in the modern era for the squad, and its 5-1 league ledger has it tied with Indiana for first place in the Big Ten heading into the weekend.
Michigan began the season as one of the favorites to challenge for the Big Ten crown, but the team is just 12-7 overall and 5-2 in conference. The Wolverines have won two in a row, beating Northwestern at home (56-54) and Rutgers on the road (54-50). The squad is 9-3 in Ann Arbor in 2014-15, winning its last four there.
Michigan owns an 88-70 advantage in the all-time series with Wisconsin, but the Badgers won the most recent meeting with a 75-62 decision at Crisler Arena on Feb. 16, 2014. As a result, UW has won 13 of the last 15 meetings, and has come out on top in five of its last six trips to Ann Arbor.
This is the only scheduled meeting between the two teams this season.
A 15-4 edge in points from the foul line, a 37-23 rebounding advantage, and a measly one turnover all played a huge role in Wisconsin's shellacking of Iowa earlier in the week. Four of the five starters for coach Bo Ryan's club scored in double figures, led by Sam Dekker with 17 points. He also cleared eight boards, while Frank Kaminsky logged a double-double consisting of 13 points and 11 rebounds. Kaminsky also dished out six assists for the Badgers (.492 FG percentage, .409 3-point FG percentage), who got 16 points from Nigel Hayes and 13 from Bronson Koenig.
Wisconsin is getting it done at both ends of the court, regardless of the team lining up on the other side, as it produces 73.8 ppg while allowing only 54.6 ppg. Kamimsky (16.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 1.0 spg) paces the team in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals, while Dekker (12.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg) and Hayes (12.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg) average double figures as well. The Badgers are +6.8 in rebounding margin and +3.5 in turnover differential. The squad has reached that last figure by coughing the ball up only 7.8 times per contest.
Michigan needed a late spurt to pull out a hard-fought win at Rutgers last time out, as the team got 12 points and seven rebounds from Derrick Walton, Jr., 11 points from Aubrey Dawkins and 10 from Zak Irvin to claim its second straight triumph and fifth in seven Big Ten bouts this season. The Wolverines shot just 34.7 percent from the field, but held their hosts to 35.8 percent success while logging a 12-7 edge in points at the charity stripe. Both teams shot roughly 30 percent from distance, and Michigan got 19 points from its bench compared to only seven for the Scarlet Knights.
It was the first game the Wolverines played without their best player, Caris LeVert (14.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.8 spg), who on Monday underwent successful surgery on the broken foot he suffered while trying to secure a rebound in last Saturday's win over Northwestern. In his stead, it will likely be Irvin and Walton, Jr. who will be expected to elevate their respective games from the 13.7 and 10.4 ppg, respectively, that they average presently. Michigan had issues at the offensive end prior to LeVert's injury, as the team puts up only 64.9 ppg in hitting 41.1 percent of its total shots. The defense will need to be even stingier now, and foes are netting just 61.6 ppg while committing an average of 13.6 turnovers per contest.