WASHINGTON (AP) — Bronson Koenig and Wisconsin were showing serious signs of recovering from their late-season swoon, right up until the second half of the Big Ten title game. Going nearly 8 minutes without a field goal — shooting 0 for 8 and turning the ball over four times in that span — relegated the 24th-ranked Badgers to another second-place finish.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Bronson Koenig and Wisconsin were showing serious signs of recovering from their late-season swoon, right up until the second half of the Big Ten title game.
Going nearly 8 minutes without a field goal — shooting 0 for 8 and turning the ball over four times in that span — relegated the 24th-ranked Badgers to another second-place finish.
That rough stretch on offense, and the double-digit deficit it helped create, was too much for Wisconsin to overcome in a 71-56 loss to eighth-seeded Michigan in Sunday's conference final.
"We weren't finishing inside. And we weren't knocking down the shots we have been in the past couple of games," Koenig said. "So just a combination of all that."
Koenig led Wisconsin with 15 points, but only two after halftime. Hayes and Ethan Happ each had 14.
"My first couple shots were in and out. I thought I forced a couple shots, just trying to get in a little bit of a flow," Koenig said. "We were down, so we were all trying to make something happen."
The Badgers simply couldn't. They shot 26.7 percent in the second half, 39.3 percent for the game.
After losing five of six games down the stretch this season to slip to No. 2 in the league standings, Wisconsin settled for its fourth runner-up showing in the Big Ten Tournament.
Before tipoff, both teams knew they would be heading to the NCAAs, win or lose. It was more a matter of seeding and site.
About a half-hour after the Big Ten final ended, Wisconsin learned it was given a No. 8 seeding in the East Region and will play No. 9 Virginia Tech on Thursday — with the winner possibly facing defending champion and No. 1 overall seed Villanova in the second round.
And despite Sunday's defeat, Wisconsin figures it at least heads to the Big Dance with the knowledge that, yes, it is a better team than it appeared to be last month.
"I think we got our confidence back," senior guard Zak Showalter said. "Obviously this one hurts, but I think we know and saw how we're capable of playing when we put it together."
Wisconsin entered Sunday having won three consecutive games, including Big Ten Tournament victories in which they held Indiana to 60 points in the quarterfinals, and Northwestern to 48 in the semifinals.
But that tremendous defense for which Wisconsin is known could not quite stifle Michigan enough.
Michigan, Showalter said, has eight players who "can shoot the ball at a really high level."
"And I don't know how many 3s they made tonight," Showalter continued (the answer is 10), "but it felt like every time I was turning around and looking up, they were going in."
Still, Koenig's 3 just before the buzzer brought Wisconsin's deficit down to 33-32 at halftime.
Neither he nor his teammates could get going after that.
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