The Wolverines try to build on a growing legacy with a trip to Wisconsin on Saturday.
No. 2 Michigan’s 17-0 record ranks as its best ever start. It can set a new program record for longest winning streak in a season if they defeat the Badgers.
The Wolverines (6-0 Big Ten) got big games from two starters who normally don’t light up the scoreboard in an 80-60 win over Northwestern on Sunday.
Point guard Zavier Simpson poured in a career-best 24 points and added four assists and three steals without a turnover. Center Jon Teske matched his career high with 17 points and also contributed 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Simpson averages 8.6 points, fourth-best on the team, with Teske just behind him at 8.4 ppg.
“As we go down the road, we’re going to need that,” coach John Beilein said of their offensive contributions. I don’t want to compare it to any other team because we’ve had some great teams. I hate comparing great to great but I do say this team has the capacity, if we get that out of those two, I wouldn’t want to have to guard that.”
Michigan has three players averaging over 13 points a game, including freshman Ignas Brazdeikis (15.6), Charles Matthews (14.1) and Jordan Poole (13.4).
Beilein downplayed the historical significance of his team’s start.
“Probably everybody would like me to make some great statement about being 17-0. It’s just another game,” he said. “It’s another game and we’ve got another one coming up Saturday at Wisconsin.”
Michigan reached the national championship game last season, so it knows most programs are judged by its tournament success.
“You don’t win championships with 17 games, 17 wins,” Matthews told ESPN. “We’re just trying to be winning at the end of March, beginning of April.”
The Badgers (11-6, 3-3 Big Ten) will try to avoid losing their third straight. They have dropped four-point decisions to Purdue and Maryland in their last four games.
Wisconsin trailed by 18 at halftime to the Terrapins on Monday and its second-half rally came up just short.
“Every loss stings,” sophomore guard Brad Davison told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The start of the game is what stings. It is kind of a theme the past couple of games. Getting down early and then fighting and crawling and scrapping to get back – making it hard on ourselves.
“In the first half, our offense was very stagnant,” he added. “We had to take a lot of tough shots late in the shot clock that we didn’t have to do in the second half. We had a lot better ball movement.”
The Badgers made 11 3-pointers in second half.
“I thought the execution was as good as it has been in a while,” coach Greg Gard said. “I thought we really moved the ball. We shared it. We got it to the right people. Obviously, it helps when you make shots. But shots usually go in because of good execution. It’s not by accident. I thought we had a lot of guys that did some very good things.”
The Badgers are led by forward Ethan Happ (19.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 4.6 apg).
Michigan won at Wisconsin 83-72 last season.