ANN ARBOR. Mich. – Back in mid-November, Wisconsin junior forward Frank Kaminsky exploded for a school-record 43 points in a win over North Dakota. Sunday, at the Crisler Center, against No. 15 Michigan, Kaminsky had what was likely his best game of the season, with 25 points and 11 rebounds in the 75-62 victory by the No. 21 Badgers.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and make some plays,” the 7-foot Kaminsky said. “I credit my teammates for getting me the ball in situations where I could do some things. We came in confident and we were able to build a lead, and then hold them off.”
Wisconsin (21-5, 8-5 Big Ten) also got 15 points from sophomore forward Sam Dekker, and junior guard Josh Gasser added 13. But it was Kaminsky who put the dagger in Michigan.
“We had no answer for him,” Michigan coach John Beilein said about Kaminsky, who scored seven points in a critical late stretch that allowed Wisconsin to turn back an emotional charge by the Wolverines.
Michigan (18-7, 10-3 Big Ten), which entered the day as the Big Ten co-leader with Michigan State, was led by sophomore guard Caris LeVert, who had a career-high 25 points. Sophomore guard Nik Stauskas had 11 points, while forward Glenn Robinson III added 10 points for the Wolverines, who shot just 31 percent in the first half.
“We weren’t making shots and they put together that lead, so it took a lot for us to come back,” Beilein said. “It’s really hard to do that against a team like Wisconsin, because they have so many ways to beat you.”
The Badgers led by 18 points late in the first half, but Michigan, after scoring just three points over the final five minutes of that first half, rallied at the start of the second half. The Wolverines cut the deficit to 42-33 on a pair of free throws by LeVert with 13:20 left.
The Wolverines kept chipping away, and when LeVert scored five straight points to get the Wolverines within seven, Robinson followed with a jumper a few moments later that sliced the lead to just five at 52-47.
A pair of LeVert free throws reduced the lead to three with more than six minutes left, but Kaminsky took over and put the game away.
Kaminsky’s jumper at the 5:50 mark put the Badger ahead by five points, and he added a layup with 4:24 left to extend the lead to seven points. Kaminsky’s 3-point shot with 2:18 left put Wisconsin ahead by 13 points.
“I feel like we were really prepared for this game, so we just had to go out and execute,” Kaminsky said. “We put ourselves in good shape when we go out and make things happen from the start, and then just ride that energy and that emotion. Road games in the Big Ten are always so difficult, but we stayed together and it paid off for us.”
The Badgers came out firing to open the game. They hit six of their first seven field-goal attempts while building a 14-4 lead just five minutes into the game. A pair of 3-pointers from Gasser provided the early punch.
Wisconsin, which came in on a three-game winning streak after dropping five of its previous six, maintained the momentum and led 20-9 at the midway point of the first half after a baseline drive for a dunk and a put-back basket by Dekker.
Michigan struggled to close the gap, and when Dekker drilled a triple from the wing with 6:40 left in the half, the Wisconsin lead expanded to 26-11. Michigan’s first-half woes — missed shots and turnovers — persisted, and an 8-0 run gave the Badgers an 18-point advantage on their way to a 34-19 halftime edge, Michigan’s lowest first-half point total of the season.
“That was a tough start, and tough to recover from, but we will find some way, shape or form to learn from this,” Beilein said about his young team, which has just one senior in its playing rotation. “We didn’t get it done today, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. We’ll learn and grow.”
Wisconsin won its fourth straight game, and the fifth in its last six trips to Ann Arbor, by holding the Wolverines to 40 percent shooting from
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