Michigan's stars rise to challenge, top Wisconsin to win Big Ten title

WASHINGTON - When John Beilein arrived at Michigan, the talk was about banners taken down.

Ten years later, the Michigan coach has made it about the ones going up.

Michigan will raise another one after the Wolverines completed the improbable Sunday, winning the Big Ten tournament as the No. 8 seed, knocking off No. 2 seed Wisconsin, 71-56 at the Verizon Center.

Michigan's three tournament heroes came to play again. Derrick Walton Jr. led the way with 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds, while D.J. Wilson added 17 points and six rebounds, and Zak Irvin chipped in 15 points, seven boards and five assists.

The Wolverines (24-11) ripped through a nasty draw, taking out the No. 1, 2 and 4 seeds in the process and making them the scariest Big Ten threat heading into next week’s NCAA tournament having won 10 of their past 12 games.

Their only previous Big Ten tournament title banner, from the inaugural 1998 champion, is buried in the Bentley Historical Library as a result of the Ed Martin booster scandal.

As Beilein has done over the decade, he put another nail in that coffin.

The most surprising part: they did it with defense, holding the Badgers to just 36% shooting for the game, 26.7% in the second half.

Wisconsin (25-9), which entered the Big Ten tournament having lost 5-of-7 games but found its sea legs in Washington, had a game that will be hard to shake.

The Badgers missed more lay-ups than any team deserves, hitting 6 of their first 24 shots in the second half and going the first eight minutes without a basket, complicated as the Wolverines continued to convert around 50% from the field.

Even when the Badgers made a push with three minutes to go, U-M got three fast-break run-outs to put it away.

This was an improbable run for the Wolverines, who looked like a Big Ten bottom-feeder after the first month of conference play. Then their defense made a leap in February and everything changed.

They won six of eight to close the regular season, had momentum but were just another hot college basketball team.

When they escaped a plane crash on their way to Washington, the Wolverines became a national cause, gaining supporters.

After winning the first three in the tournament, including the No. 1 and 4 seeds, they seemed charmed.

On Sunday, in resounding fashion they reached down to finish their fourth win in four days.

Now they’ll get to raise up a championship banner.

Detroit Free Press


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