MADISON - Wisconsin's shooting display at the Kohl Center Wednesday night was about as cold as the winter weather outside.
That was until Rob Wilson entered the game and scored most of his 13 points off the bench in the second half to help the Badgers fight back for a hard earned 54-48 win over Michigan, improving its record to 15-4 overall and 5-2 in Big Ten play.
With just less than nine minutes remaining in the game, and shortly after the Wolverines had pushed the lead to nine, Wilson came in and splashed a three that not only energized the home crowd, but gave life to a team desperately trying to find an offensive groove without Jon Leuer.
"We see glimpses of that in practice," UW senior guard Trevon Hughes, who scored a team high 20 points, said. "We know he's a great player. Anytime he comes over to the main squad he doesn't bring it. It's about time. It took him all season for him to come out and play with us and we needed it.
"He brought it tonight."
The three-point shot from Wilson was one of four perimeter shots that went down for the Badgers out of the 24 taken. The percentage was anything but pretty, but that particular shot helped spark the Badgers to a 13-4 run that helped tie the game at 43 with less than four minutes to play.
And it had a lot to do with Wilson as the sophomore guard started the run with a three and ended it with a pair of free throws to even the tally.
"Whatever he can give us is great to have," UW head coach Bo Ryan said in regards to Wilson after his 99th career Big Ten win. "The teammates are always appreciative of everybody's efforts. Rob did a great job for us."
Then, with the score tied down the stretch, Hughes took over as he so often does. He hit a deep two with his foot on the line to break the deadlock and scored a driving lay-up with the shot clock winding down to open a four-point lead for his team.
From there, the deciding 11-5 run was in progress as the Badgers used the home floor momentum to keep the Wolverines from closing the gap.
Individually, Tim Jarmusz played some of his best defense of the season when he held Manny Harris to only 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting, while limiting him to only three points in the final four minute stretch.
"Wisconsin always has a guy that can do that," Michigan head coach John Beilein, who has never beaten a Ryan coached team, said. "I do think there were several times where Manny got really good looks, but Tim is a good defender. He did a good job on him.
"I know Manny would love to have some of those shots back."
At the same time, Keaton Nankivil, who nearly recorded a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds, kept DeShawn Sims off kilter even though the Michigan senior still scored a game high 23 points and hauled in 13 rebounds.
"He got off to a hot start," Nankivil said. "He was real aggressive. He did make some tough shots, but I think looking at the stats, he played 34 minutes and that's a long time on the floor especially considering he fouled out with a couple minutes left. He would have also been in there otherwise.
"Maybe we just wore him down."
Michigan had not won in Madison since 1999 and had lost six straight overall in the series entering Wednesday's contest at Wisconsin.
By the end of Wednesday's action, another year can be added to that tally with another loss to that current streak as the Badgers fought back for a win that didn't look too plausible with the way things were going.
UW struggled to shoot 34 percent from the field and an even more putrid 16.7 percent from downtown, but still managed to claw out a win because it only turned the ball over five times and played tough defense throughout.
By the end, Michigan only hit 36.2 percent of its shots from the field and just under 32 percent from downtown. Wisconsin also dominated with 19 bench points to Michigan's one, thanks in large part to Wilson's contributions.
"It just happened that all of the open shots just came from my teammates penetrating and finding me," Wilson said. "But the main thing I was focusing on was playing defense."
Without Leuer, and still with legitimate conference title aspirations, Wednesday night's win in a game that looked bleak for the most part is one that could boost the confidence for this Badgers squad.
"I think it just shows a lot about our team," Nankivil said. "We have a setback with Jon, but we're not the kind of team that's going to make excuses. We have people like Rob step up and Pop had a huge game. Even when we don't shoot well, we still do a lot of stuff well to put ourselves in a position to win.
"That's the way coach coaches us."
Post Game Notes:
-With the win, UW is now 50-0 at home against unranked Big Ten opponents under head coach Bo Ryan. And also by winning, UW has extended its home-court winning streak against unranked opponents to 52 straight.
-Overall, the Badgers have won 16 consecutive games inside the Kohl Center.
-The Badgers have held Michigan to 61 points or fewer in seven straight meetings, dating back to the 2006-07 campaign.
-By holding the Wolverines to 48 points, UW has held eight opponents to 50 points or less this season.
-Hughes recorded his sixth 20-point game of the season, and the 14th of his career.
-Wilson's 13 points established a new career high. He also recorded three rebounds, one assist and one steal in 18 minutes of action.
-Jarmusz tied a career high with seven rebounds, giving him at leas six boards for the second-consecutive game.
Bo Ryan on Wilson's performance off the bench:
"We'll take it from anybody. But Rob did a great job of recognizing what he could contribute to the team. Offensively he was solid, getting the loose balls, being active, taking shots. That's really what we needed. We need somebody to take shots."
John Beilein on why UW is tough to beat at the Kohl Center:
"I think they win at home because they're a good team. It was a great crowd. They have a great coach, they have a great team and they have a system where they don't beat themselves and that is why they win whether they're at home or away. They don't beat themselves and they didn't beat themselves today. We didn't even get into the one-and-one until I think maybe the last
.I don't even know if we got into the one-and-one. They got us into the one-and-one. They got offensive rebounds. They just do the right things."
Hughes on the difference in the game:
"The effort and energy we got off the bench in the second half. We started the game off flat. Actually we got some open looks, but we just weren't knocking them down. Our confidence level rises when we get the open looks. They were antagonizing in the paint and they kept Jordan Taylor and I out of it. It was hard to drive even though we wanted to shoot the open shots. At half time Coach got into us and told us to stay up and that the open shots might be there. Stay confident and get the open looks. We got a lot of production off the bench."
Wilson on his performance:
"I just hadn't been bringing it like I know I should have. Today was the day I broke out of my shell."
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