ANN ARBOR — Wisconsin came to Crisler Center on Tuesday with its all-senior starting five, No. 9 national ranking, and plenty of big-game experience.
It didn’t matter.
Michigan did what it’s done to nearly every opponent, especially of late, dominating on both ends en route to a 77-54 victory to improve to 11-0.
The Wolverines’ 36-3 run, spanning both halves, made for yet another Big Ten blowout. They led by as many as 40 points.
Four Wolverines scored between 12 and 16 points as Michigan shot 52 percent from the field and made 9-of-16 3s. Wisconsin shot just 31 percent, and even that figure was boosted by hot shooting after the outcome was decided.
Good luck finding a team playing better than No. 7 Michigan right now. U-M was coming off a 25-point win over Minnesota and a 19-point win over Northwestern before that. Both opponents were ranked at the time.
Wisconsin, the last team to win at Crisler, on Feb. 27 of last season, was supposed to present a tougher challenge.
Instead, the Wolverines rolled to 6-0 in conference with selfless offense and smothering defense. Their 14-0 run to close the first half gave them a 17-point advantage and had the home bench in hysterics. Wisconsin scored the first three points of the second half. That’s when the Wolverines went for the jugular.
Chaundee Brown’s put-back dunk capped a 22-0 run over the next 6:38 and would have torn the roof off of Crisler had there been fans in attendance beyond the small number of family members.
Wisconsin missed nine straight field goals and committed three turnovers during the onslaught. The Badgers entered as one of the country’s best 3-point shooting teams but started just 3-of-17 from deep (they finished 9-of-28). Wisconsin dropped to 10-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten.
Franz Wagner produced 15 points and 10 rebounds for the victors. Mike Smith scored 16 and added six assists. Isaiah Livers had 13 points and six boards.
D’Mitrik Trice led Wisconsin with 20 points. Micah Potter added 12, the only other Badger in double digits.
The teams combined for just 10 free throw attempts.
In addition Michigan’s monster win, center Austin Davis returned after missing the past five games with a foot injury sustained on Dec. 9. The redshirt senior played 12 minutes off the bench, tallying four points and four rebounds.
Davis’ absence coincided with Hunter Dickinson’s emergence. Michigan’s leading scorer on the season scored just two first-half points but got going during the second-half surge to finish with 12 points. Dickinson also recorded three of Michigan’s nine blocks.
Wisconsin’s shots that did reach the basket were mostly challenged. The Badgers couldn’t get any rhythm offensively. One of the nation’s best at limiting turnovers, they had more giveaways (10) than assists (eight) on Tuesday.
After Wisconsin stopped the aforementioned 22-0 burst, Michigan scored the next seven points. In total it was a 43-6 run that put Michigan up 69-29 with 10:23 left.
Michigan will try to keep the momentum going in a rematch with No. 23 Minnesota on Saturday in Minneapolis.
Tuesday’s matchup seemed like it would be competitive early. Livers showed off his full repertoire early, scoring seven points as Michigan grabbed an 11-5 lead. Wisconsin’s third 3-pointer tied the game at 15 with 12:13 left in the half before Michigan found its rhythm from deep.
Brown hit a 3 shortly after checking in. Wagner buried one. Livers crossed his defender — who fell and drew a flop warning — before passing to Brandon Johns Jr. for a corner triple, and Michigan led 26-19 with 8:31 left.
Wisconsin cut the deficit to three with 6:19 left before Michigan’s 14-0 run to close the half. It included consecutive steals and breakaways, a high-flying Wagner dunks, a pretty step-back 3 from Smith, and lock-down defense. Michigan led 40-23.
The Michigan bench exploded on to the court and made its presence felt throughout the evening.