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Bigger competition is better for Wilkinson

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Michigan has some of the Big Ten's better
big men and they always bring out the best in Mike Wilkinson.

Wilkinson's 22 points and nine rebounds helped No. 20 Wisconsin
hand Michigan its school record-tying ninth straight loss, 76-50 on
Wednesday night.

In the Badgers' season sweep of the Wolverines -- their first
since 1979 -- Wilkinson had 50 points and 24 rebounds.

What is it about the Wolverines?

"I'm not sure," Wilkinson said. "They've got some good big
guys that play hard all the time. It's just a challenge. It's fun
to go out there and play against good guys, good competition. And
that's what they are. I've been fortunate to shoot pretty well."

The Wolverines, who have lost a total of 68 games to injuries
and other reasons, were hoping the return of 6-foot-11 forward
Chris Hunter would give them another big body to match up with
Wilkinson. He scored 28 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the
Badgers' 71-62 win at Ann Arbor last month when Hunter was out with
an ankle injury.

But Hunter lost his footing under the Badgers' basket in the
opening minutes and hobbled off. Coach Tommy Amaker said he
apparently aggravated his high left ankle sprain. He was limited to
9 minutes and scored two points, sitting out the second half
altogether.

"I think it definitely helped that he was out," Wilkinson
said. "Any time you take a guy his size and his athletic ability
out of the game, it can make a difference."

It wasn't just Hunter's absence, however, that allowed Wilkinson
to burn the Wolverines again.

"Take your pick. I think he has terrific hands," Amaker said.
"He has great instincts. He never seems like he's out of position
or off-balance. He scores inside and out. I just think he's a
terrific basketball player. It starts with his mind and his savvy,
but then he certainly has terrific skills to go with that."

Wilkinson scored 13 points in the first half as the Badgers
raced to a 37-17 lead. They were never threatened over the final 20
minutes, stretching the lead to 30 points.

Zach Morley added 12 points and Alando Tucker and Ray Nixon each
scored 10 for Wisconsin (17-6, 8-4 Big Ten). Nixon's total was a
career high.

The only other time the Wolverines (12-14, 3-9) lost nine
straight was when they dropped their last eight games in 1966-67
and the opener the following season. Michigan has to beat Indiana
at home this weekend to avoid setting the school's futility mark.

"We're going to keep trying to find ways to end it," Amaker
said. "It's obviously a tough time for our team and our kids. But
we're not going to stop trying."

Courtney Sims led Michigan with 16 points and Dion Harris had
15.

The Badgers outscored the Wolverines by 18 points from beyond
the arc, hitting six 3-pointers while Michigan went 0-for-8 in the
first half.

"At the early stages of the game we really struggled to put the
ball in the basket," Amaker said. "We missed close-in shots and
dunk opportunities. I thought they got out of the box early,
shooting the 3 ball. They really put us on our heels and it really
just went downhill from there."

The Wolverines didn't reach double figures until Brown's basket
with 7:16 left in the first half. By that time, Wilkinson was well
on his way to double figures himself.

Tucker said the Badgers wanted to get back to their basics after
Wilkinson was limited to four shots in a loss to top-ranked
Illinois last weekend.

"We wanted to make a statement. We still are an in-the-paint,
low-post kind of team," Tucker said. "We work inside-outside. We
were getting away from that the last couple of games."