MADISON – Brad Davison cradled the basketball until two Michigan players swarmed him and he was finally fouled with five seconds remaining.
Across the floor from Davison, Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard began clapping forcefully and beaming, his smile lighting up the UW sideline.
Gard knew his team, having lost two consecutive Big Ten games and three of its last four, needed this victory.
“How do you handle things when you don’t get the results that you want?” Gard mused after UW handed Michigan its first loss of the season, 64-54, Saturday in front of an energized crowd of 17,287. “Are you going to whine? Are you going to pout? Feel sorry for yourself?
“Or are you going to come back and get better the next day?
“This group’s mentality, even through the struggles we’ve had has always been a fighter’s mentality.”
UW (12-6, 4-3 Big Ten) got an All-American performance from senior Ethan Happ, huge plays from several players and outscored the Wolverines, 7-0, over the final 51.2 seconds.
BOX SCORE: Wisconsin 64, Michigan 54
Michigan (17-1, 6-1), No. 4 according to USA Today and No. 2 according to The Associated Press, suffered its first loss since the 2018 national title game.
“They have a really good team,” Michigan coach John Beilein said, “and Happ isn’t a preseason All-American. He is a postseason All-American. He is tremendous.”
Happ hit two crucial free throws, on four attempts, in the final 2 minutes 13 seconds and finished with 26 points,10 rebounds and seven assists to lead UW. He also excelled on defense and helped shut out freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis, who had been averaging a team-high 15.6 points per game.
Five other UW players scored at least six points.
Aleem Ford, who had scored a combined eight points in the previous five games, hit 2 of 3 three-pointers and converted a three-point play for nine points.
Brad Davison had a huge steal late in the game and finished with eight points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and four fouls drawn.
“He was everywhere,” Gard said, glancing at the stat sheet. “They don’t have a stat for ‘he is everywhere.'”
D’Mitrik Trice scored six points, all after halftime. He drew a huge charge with UW leading by four and then found Happ inside for a dunk and a 52-46 lead. His two free throws with 1:12 left gave UW a 57-51 lead.
Nate Reuvers added nine points, three rebounds, two assists and two blocks. The second block came with UW holding a 60-54 lead. Happ grabbed the loose ball and passed ahead to Reuvers for a dunk with 9.3 seconds left.
Kobe KIng added six points and five rebounds.
Jon Teske led Michigan with 15 points. Sophomore guard Jordan Poole, a Milwaukee native, scored 11 points in the first half to help the Wolverines claw out a 27-25 lead but made just 1 of 6 shots after halftime and finished with 14 points.
“This is a game I circled on the calendar,” Poole said. “But to see that we play them again, especially at home, is something I’m definitely looking forward to.”
Junior guard Zavier Simpson contributed 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists but had three of Michigan’s 16 turnovers. The Wolverines entered the day averaging just 9.5 turnovers per game.
“Anybody who has 16 turnovers against a team that doesn’t turn it over is not going to win any games,” Beilein said.
The Badgers suffered losses at home against Minnesota and Purdue and at Maryland because they failed to make key plays in the final minutes.
Gard’s players made all the necessary plays in the second half Saturday and there were many.
After Ford forged a 43-43 tie with the three-point play, Davison hustled back on defense to break up a long pass. He saved the ball from going out of bounds and Happ eventually scored for a 45-44 UW lead.
After Happ dived on the floor for a loose ball and called a timeout, King hit a three-pointer to push the lead to 48-44.
Happ scored inside to push the lead to 50-44. Then after Michigan’s Charles Matthews hit a jumper, Trice made two huge plays.
First, he drew a charge on Matthews with 4:36 left and then he fed Happ for a dunk for a 52-46 lead with 4:14 left.
Michigan closed to within 57-54 on a three-pointer by Isaiah Livers with 1:01 left but when Happ was fouled by Brazdeikis away from the ball with 51.2 seconds left the officials ruled the foul intentional.
Happ made 1 of 2 free throws and then rebounded his own miss for a 60-54 lead . After Reuvers blocked Simpson’s shot, Happ corralled a loose ball and fed Reuvers for a dunk. Davison stole the subsequent inbound pass, was fouled and hit two free throws to close the scoring.
The court turned into a mosh pit a few seconds later as UW fans streamed from their seats to celebrate the Badgers’ seventh victory over a top-10 team under Gard.
“It helps us get back on track and gives us a lot of confidence,” Reuvers said. “Because we beat a team like that, we know we can play with anybody.”