Wisconsin holds off Michigan 64-59

MADISON, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 14: Connor Essegian #3 of the Wisconsin Badgers reacts after the Wisconsin Badgers defeat the Michigan Wolverines 64-59 at Kohl Center on February 14, 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

Freshman Connor Essegian scored a career-high 23 points, including 5 of 6 free throws in the final 45 seconds, and Wisconsin held off Michigan 64-59 on Tuesday night despite missing its last 15 shots.

The game started with a minute of silence for the campus shooting at Michigan State that killed three people and wounded five others on Monday night. Michigan was scheduled to play at MSU on Saturday but the game has been postponed.

Essegian's basket at the 10:45 was the last one for the Badgers, and his two free throws at 10:27 following a technical foul on Michigan coach Juwan Howard, capped a personal 6-0 run for a 54-42 lead.

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From there, Wisconsin made 10 of 12 free throws, just enough to pull out the win. Twice the Wolverines had free-throw opportunities to tie the game, once with 4:10 to play and again less than two minutes to go, but failed to do so. They also made just two of their last 11 field-goal attempts, including eight straight misses.

Steven Crowl had 11 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for the Badgers (15-10, 7-8 Big Ten Conference), who were coming off an overtime loss to Nebraska after blowing a 17-point lead. Max Klesmit added 10 points. Leading scorer Chucky Hepburn, averaging 13.2 points, had just two on 1-of-9 shooting but had a critical steal with 16 seconds left and the lead at 61-57.

Kobe Bufkin scored 21 points for the Wolverines (14-12, 8-7), who were coming off a 62-61 loss to No. 18 Indiana. Hunter Dickinson had 12 points and 12 rebounds.

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Wisconsin was ahead 39-38 five minutes into the second half when Michigan committed turnovers on five of six possessions. Crowl and Kamari McGee combined for nine points to stretch the Wolverines' lead to 48-40. After a Michigan layup, Essegian had his run for the big lead of the game.

But the technical seemed to bring Michigan to life. Dug McDaniel capped a 10-0 run by making 1 of 2 free throws that cut the deficit to 55-54.

Will Tschetter, in his first collegiate start in place of Terrance Williams II, who was out with a deep knee bruise, missed two free throws with 1:17 to play when the Wolverines trailed 57-55.

Michigan finished 6 of 10 from the foul line, all coming in the last seven minutes.

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The Wolverines made their last five shots of the first half, two of them 3-pointers, to erase a seven-point deficit, taking a 32-31 lead on Bufkin's 3-pointer five seconds before the break.

The finish helped push Michigan to 50% shooting, including 4 of 8 from distance. The Badgers were 5 of 10 behind the arc but only shot 7 of 23 inside. They were 1 of 9 to close out the half after taking a 27-20 lead on Klesmit's 3-pointer at the 5:31 mark.

Wisconsin is home against Rutgers on Saturday.