February 11, 2013
U-M must not let Wisconsin beat it twice
As one of the "one-plays" in Michigan's Big Ten conference schedule, Wisconsin assured itself of a perfect regular season record against the Wolverines with Saturday's stunning 65-62, come-from-behind overtime win. If U-M is to get revenge against the Badgers, or UW is to beat the Wolverines a second time, they will have to wait until the Big Ten or NCAA tournament.
It may feel like Ben Brust beat Michigan twice in his team's 65-62 overtime victory: once with what was a 45-foot shot of a lifetime (as Brust himself acknowledged after the game) as the buzzer sounded to end regulation, and again in the final minute of overtime with a long-but-not-that-long three, again just over Caris LeVert's outstretched hand. But the sum of those shots is still just one loss, the Wolverines' third in a conference whose champion is almost certain to have more at the end of conference play.
Figuratively speaking, though, there is a real risk that Saturday's heartbreaking loss at the Kohl Center could leave Michigan with a hangover that the team is still feeling while it prepares to face Michigan State Tuesday night in East Lansing. If the Wolverines cannot shake off the sting of Brust's punches in the gut, then he still could wind up beating them twice.
U-M has two days to prepare for the last of four grueling back-to-back-to-back-to-back games. So far, the Wolverines have won their one home game, against Ohio State, and dropped their two tough road contests in that span, at Indiana and Wisconsin. One opportunity remains for them to seize a road win against a fellow conference title contender, MSU. If they do, then their split of the four games would be good enough to put them in what might be the best position of any team to win the regular-season Big Ten championship. But their chances of winning Tuesday depend on the young team's ability to put Saturday's nightmare ending behind it and refocus on preparing for the Spartans.
To say that the Wolverines were disappointed after the Wisconsin game would be a significant understatement. "Shell-shocked" would be much more accurate.
After collecting their equipment and gathering with family, friends and straggling fans before leaving the Kohl Center, players were composed and courteous with visitors and well-wishers. But they were also visibly affected by the way a sniper's shot had ripped their near-win from their fingers.
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