Wednesday’s Things to Know: No. 5 Michigan loses again, Badgers drop fourth in five
What looked to be a quiet night in college basketball ended up creating some noise, with a top-five upset leading the charge. Here’s everything you need to know from around the country.
1. Illinois gives No. 5 Michigan second loss in three games
Michigan is learning a lesson so many Midwestern tourists to the Bahamas learn upon returning home in December.
It was a helluva lot nicer down there.
The fifth-ranked Wolverines suffered their second loss in their three games since their expectations-busting Battle 4 Atlantis championship two weeks ago, this one coming to Illinois in a 71-62 setback.
Certainly, there’s no reason to completely abandon Juwan Howard’s team given both those losses were true road games, and one came against the top-ranked team in the country. Teams are going to lose road games, and maybe no one is going to win at the KFC Yum! Center other than Louisville this season. This Wolverines team was dismantling North Carolina and Gonzaga not so long ago, after all.
Their loss to the Illini seems to be more about an off-shooting night than any sort of structural problem. The Wolverines entered the night as a top-25 3-point shooting team, but connected on just 3 of 18 (16.7 percent), including 1 of 6 in the second half, in Champaign.
Sometimes, it’s not just your night.
As ‘meh’ as I am for the loss for the Wolverines, it’s a major victory for Brad Underwood’s Illinois. Prior to tonight, the Illini’s best win was KenPom No. 173 Hawaii at home. All three top-100 teams they faced - No. 14 Arizona, No. 83 Miami and No. 9 Maryland - all beat them, with the Hurricanes and Terps games both last week.
Stopping a two-game losing streak and getting your first marquee win of the season against the team that had become something of a national darling is a really nice way to spend a Wednesday night.
It was an encouraging performance for the Illini, which had a balanced attack and a breakout performance from center Kofi Cockburn. The 7-foot center had 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. It was a fantastic night for him, but, unfortunately, it’ll likely be remembered most by his celebration late in the game that left an official injured after a celebratory fist pump accidentally smacked referee Lewis Garrison in the head.
2. Wisconsin drops fourth in five at Rutgers
Things aren’t looking so hot in Madison right now.
The Badgers lost for the fourth time in five games, this one a 72-65 defeat at Rutgers.
Now, it’s early, but Wisconsin looks well off from being an NCAA tournament team now with a 5-5 record, albeit with quality wins against Marquette and Indiana on the resume. If the Badgers can’t find the consistency and success necessary to get a berth, it’ll be the second time in three years they’ll have missed the dance after going every single year from 1999-2017. I imagine that would get some people a little concerned about the trajectory Greg Gard’s program is on after he inherited the powerhouse program after Bo Ryan’s abrupt mid-2015-16 retirement.
The result Wednesday has to be especially disappointing given it comes on the heels of a 20-point win over the Hoosiers in Madison. That may be the silver lining for the Badgers as all five of their losses have come away from the Kohl Center.
Rutgers won despite making fewer 3s and free throws thanks to the 14 offensive rebounds it collected and by winning the turnover margin (14 to 11). Geo Baker scored 22 to lead the way.
3. Low-major, big stats
Let’s give it up to some of the little guys that had huge nights.
Lavar Batts, a 6-foot-3 sophomore for UNC Asheville - made 14 of 17 shots from the floor, 3 of 5 from distance and 9 of 9 from the free-throw line to score 40, albeit in a losing effort to South Carolina State, 90-85. Batts is the 11th player this year to hit 40 points in a game against Division I competition.