MADISON - The Wisconsin Badgers found a way. They've been left for dead several times already this season, and were left for dead again after Michigan's Tim Hardaway, Jr. hit a deep 3-pointer to give the No. 3 Wolverines a 60-57 lead with three seconds left in the game Saturday at the Kohl Center.
But the Badgers found a way. Mike Bruesewitz found Ben Brust on the succeeding in-bounds pass, who dribbled once over half court and threw up a desperation 3-point shot that found its way through the hoop and sent the game into overtime. The Badgers then held Michigan to just 2 points in eight possessions in the extra period, and ground out a 65-62 overtime win. Brust said after the game that he had a good feeling the shot was going in, even though it was way beyond his normal comfort zone.
"I went to the ball, turned, got squared up, and I knew I had to get it off," Brust said. "I wanted to at least give it a chance. It felt pretty good, and it went down."
Brust's shot helped the Badgers to their second win over a Top-3 team this season, and moved them into a tie with the Wolverines for third place in the Big Ten. Head coach Bo Ryan said he was happy with his team's effort in the game following a double-overtime win over Iowa earlier in the week, and that he's not surprised to find his team up near the top of the Big Ten standings, despite the litany of injuries and early losses that plagued his squad.
"I'm so proud of these guys," Ryan said after the game. "This is a group that just finds different ways. They're great to have in practice, too. They're working it, they're trying."
And while the Badgers shot their way past Michigan in the end, they were playing from behind for most of the second half. The Wolverines closed the first half on a 13-4 run to pull ahead of the Badgers 29-28, and led by as many as 6 points midway through the second half. But the Badgers mounted an 11-5 run to tie up the game, capped by Brust's half-court heave. As a team they shot 46 percent from the floor in the second half, and made 41.7 percent of their 3-point shots in the game.
Brust led the Badgers with 14 points, and made 4-of-7 3-pointers in the game. Michigan guard Trey Burke and Hardaway combined for 37 points for Michigan, but the Badgers were able to force enough stops late in the second half to keep themselves alive in the game. Michigan scored on just three of their last 15 possessions, and the Badgers held Burke to just 2 points in the game's final 14 minutes.
"Obviously he's an extremely good player," senior center Jared Berggren said after the game. "He hurt us a little bit coming off those ball screens and we talked about just squeezing toward him and making him throw it to someone else. We were just trying to make the shots as difficult as possible for him."
The win was Wisconsin's sixth home win over an AP Top-5 team in the last seven years, which is tied with Pittsburgh for most in the nation. And while the unranked Badgers have had their fair share of struggles this season, Berggren said the win over Michigan was just another example of the Badgers finding a way to win any way they could.
"We're right up towards the top of the standings right now," Berggren said. "Obviously there's a lot of basketball left to be played, but I think we've proven that we can beat anyone at any time when we play our game. We do enough things to find a way to win. We have a bunch of fighters in this locker room, guys who aren't going to give up and give it 100 percent until the final horn. We did that against Iowa, and we did that again today- did anything possible to find a way to win."
For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.