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No. 21 Wolverines Beat The Badgers


Michigan's seniors knew Saturday's 76-70 victory against Wisconsin was their final home game.

Brian Ellerbe, coach of the 21st-ranked Wolverines, wasn't sure whether it was his home finale.

"I wish Steve Fisher was still there, but the guy sitting down there deserves another shot," Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett said."The way they play with tenacity and poise, I don't think anyone could've done a better job."

Ellerbe, who took over when Fisher was fired last October, has led his team to three straight victories heading into the first Big Ten tournament, where the Wolverines (21-8, 11-5) will be the No. 4 seed.

Robert Traylor, a junior who may leave after this season, scored 26 points Saturday and Louis Bullock added 21 as Michigan rallied. Jerod Ward, one of the three seniors - Maceo Baston and Travis Conlan are the others - scored 11.

Wisconsin (11-18, 3-13) lost its 11th consecutive conference game despite 28 points from guard Sean Mason, who was 9-for-13 overall and 6-for-8 on 3-pointers.

"Mason was incredible," Bullock said. "When he knocked one off the backboard from on top, I knew he was on. Guys might do it from the side, but not on top."

Maurice Linton had 15 points and seven rebounds for Wisconsin, which will have either the ninth or 10th seed when the Big Ten tournament starts Thursday in Chicago. The Badgers have lost 15 straight at Crisler Arena since 1982.

Michigan did not score a field goal for the first 11:05 of the second half. The Wolverines stayed in the game only because of free throws, making 26 of 32 overall and 23 of 28 in the second half.

"We started getting into the post and getting to the free throw line," Ellerbe said."That's why i wasn't upset that we didn't get any field goals."

The Wolverines missed their first eight second-half shots - including five in one possession - and didn't score from the floor until Conlan's layup off a steal gave them a 48-46 lead with 8:55 remaining.

Mason answered with consecutive 3-pointers that put Wisconsin ahead 52-48. Andy Kowske's putback left Wisconsin up 63-60 with six minutes to go,

But Michigan went ahead for good with an 8-0 run as Bullock and Ward sandwiched 3-pointers around Traylor's tipin. The Wolverines iced the win by making six of eight free throws the rest of the way.

"It's disappointing because we played one of our best games of the year," Bennett said."Unfortunately, we sent them to the line 28 times in the second half and we only had nine. That's tough to overcome."

Baston, a 6-foot-9 forward, returned after missing four games because of a chip fracture in his right foot. He scored five points in seven minutes.

The Wolverines won despite Wisconsin's 61 percent shooting and 27-20 rebonding advantage. Michigan shot 45 percent, but the Badgers committed 19 turnovers and had no answer for the Wolverines' free-throw shooting.

"We kept our poise," Ellerbe said. "That's going to be vital for us the rest of the way."

Michigan led 34-29 after a first half played mostly at the long-possession, low-scoring pace preferred by Bennett. The Badgers had a pair of leads, the last at 21-19 on Mason's baseline jumper with about 6:30 remaining.

Bullock answered with a pair of 3-pointers and Traylor added six points in a 12-5 run that gave Michigan a 31-29 lead. Sean Daugherty and Bullock traded 3-pointers - the latter a 30-foot heave outside the top of the key - to leave the Wolverines up five at the break.

© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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