Ann Arbor, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - With the race for the Big Ten Conference championship heating up, a couple of ranked foes get together on Sunday afternoon, as No. 21 Wisconsin pays a visit to No. 15 Michigan.
Wisconsin took down visiting Minnesota this past Thursday, 78-70, to post its third straight win and fourth in the last six games overall. The Badgers currently sit at 20-5 overall and 7-5 in conference, and they are hoping to improve upon their record in true road games this season, which stands at 5-2.
Michigan is battling bitter rival Michigan State for top honors in the Big Ten right now, but nearly as important is establishing some momentum as the regular season winds down. The Wolverines have alternated losses with wins in their last four games, with the most recent being a 70-60 triumph at Ohio State last Tuesday. Michigan's only blemish in 11 home games this season came in a 72-70 setback against former No. 1 team Arizona back on Dec. 14.
These two teams met in Madison on Jan. 18, and the Wolverines won that one in a 77-70 final. As a result, the all-time series now favors Michigan by an 88-69 margin.
In that initial encounter, Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert paced the Maize and Blue with 23 and 20 points, respectively, while Josh Gasser was high man for the Badgers with his 16 points.
Ben Brust was the featured performer in Wisconsin's recent win over Minnesota, as he hit all four of his 3-point attempts en route to 20 points. Frank Kaminsky added 17, Nigel Hayes came off the bench to tally 15 and Sam Dekker chipped in with 10 for a UW squad that made good on 48.8 percent of its total shots, including 6-of-15 trey attempts and 30-of-36 free throws. Minnesota only scored 15 points at the charity stripe, and the Badgers outscored the Gophers, 13-1, off turnovers.
Relying more on a total team effort rather than riding one or two stars, the Badgers boast four double-digit scorers, all of whom help contribute to the team's scoring average of 73.2 ppg. Dekker leads the way with 13.4 ppg, while Brust (13.2 ppg), Kaminsky (12.5 ppg) and Traevon Jackson (10.7 ppg) are all hot on his heels. Dekker and Kaminsky are tied for the rebounding lead with 6.0 rpg. The Badgers are guilty of only 8.5 turnovers per outing. Strong defense has been a staple in UW's arsenal for several years, and while this year's club has been a bit more lax than those in the past, it still permits only 63.4 ppg.
Derrick Walton, Jr. scored all 13 of his points in the second half, while also grabbing a career-high 10 rebounds and dishing out a game-high six assists in leading Michigan to a come-from-behind win over Ohio State earlier in the week. Stauskas actually paced the team with 15 points thanks to a 3-of-6 effort behind the 3-point line, the Wolverines nailing 8-of-17 long-range launches on the night. Michigan made good on just 41.5 percent of its total shots, but allowed the Buckeyes just 3-of-20 success on their 3-point tries, while also logging an 18-11 edge in points from the foul line, coupled with a 39-27 rebounding advantage.
Stauskas continues to pace the team and rank among the conference leaders with his 16.9 ppg, performing exceptionally well from beyond the arc (55-of-123, .447) as well as the free-throw line (110-of-134, .821). He is also the team's primary playmaker with 81 assists, while Walton, Jr. has 72. Glenn Robinson III (12.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and LeVert (12.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg) are also averaging double digits in the scoring column for a Michigan squad that is putting up 75.5 ppg in hitting 48.2 percent of its total shots, which includes a 39.3 percent showing from downtown. Defensively, the Wolverines are giving up just 64.4 ppg, and their foes come up small in both rebounding (-2.1) and turnover (-1.5) margin.