ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan had a senior play well again to extend its winning streak.
It was Zak Irvin, not Derrick Walton, for a change.
Irvin broke out of a slump with 18 points and Moe Wagner scored 21 points, helping the Wolverines beat No. 11 Wisconsin 64-58 on Thursday night.
After scoring a total of 13 points in the previous four games, Irvin opened the game against the Badgers by sailing a 3-pointer over the basket.
“The last two weeks, I’ve been encouraged by teammates, coaches, whenever I have a miss,” Irvin said . “To start off with an airball the way I did, I had my head down a little bit. But Coach (John Beilein) and the rest of the guys were there, ‘Keep shooting! Keep shooting!‘ and it was falling late for me.”
The Wolverines (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten) have won three straight to boost their chances at making the NCAA Tournament, giving them the opportunity of possibly improving their seeding and chances of advancing.
“It’s not a bad time to be peaking,” Walton said. “The most important basketball is right now and the stakes are a lot higher. Guys are playing with so much more passion and it’s showing on the court.”
Walton scored five points on 1-of-8 shooting — ending a five-game streak with 20-plus points — and had eight assists and five rebounds.
The Badgers (21-5, 10-3) have lost consecutive games for the first time this season, dropping them into a three-way tie atop the Big Ten standings with No. 16 Purdue and No. 23 Maryland with five games remaining in the regular season. Wisconsin was without senior point guard Bronson Koenig because of a calf strain in his left leg, and were forced to break up a starting lineup that began the first 25 games of the season together.
“We’re not peaking yet if you want to look at the bright side,” Ethan Happ said after scoring 22 points.
Wisconsin: The Badgers clearly missed Koenig and need him to get healthy to help their chances of winning the Big Ten title and potentially making a run in the NCAA Tournament. Freshman D’Mitrik Trice had nine points on 2-of-15 shooting, five rebounds and four assists in his first start and made one glaring mistake. Trice fouled Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman on a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 7:51 left gave Michigan the 11th and final lead change in a game with eight ties.
“Having Bronson would’ve been nice the last couple of minutes, we’re so used to playing with him,” guard Zak Showalter said. “But we got to think about our future, and his future. Now, we just have to take care of business the rest of the way and hopefully win out in this conference and get a ring.”
Michigan: The Wolverines proved they can win without Walton having a great game, and that’s a key development. The senior point guard has been carrying the team lately, averaging 23 points in the previous five games.
“I’m just glad all the people were there to pick it up,” Beilein said.
Abdur-Rahkman scored 12 points, giving Michigan scoring from its backcourt without Walton’s usual production.
UP AND DOWN
Happ scored 18 points in the first half, making 8 of 9 shots, and could not be stopped in the lane by the Wolverines. After getting doubled often in the second half, Happ was held to four points and four shots. Likewise, Khalil Iverson was much more effective in the first half with eight of his 10 points.
“It was a tale of two halves in terms of our inability to finish in the paint in the second half,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said.
Walton became the first player in school history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists in a career.
Beilein beat the Badgers for just the third time in 19 games.
“We haven’t been on the left side of the column too much against them,” Walton said. “I know Coach B was ecstatic.”
Beilein has lost to Wisconsin 16 times, more than any other opponent. He has 14 losses against Ohio State and Gannon.
Wisconsin: Hosts Maryland in a possibly pivotal game in the race for the Big Ten’s regular season championship. Gard said he does not know if Koenig will play against the Terrapins because of his day-to-day status.
Michigan: Plays at Minnesota on Sunday.
Follow Larry Lage at http://www.twitter.com/larrylage