The score is going to indicate Wisconsin gave a spirited effort in one of the toughest road environments in the country, but the reality is that the UW men's basketball team shot itself in the foot and missed a golden opportunity to make an early statement as a serious Big Ten title contender.
The Badgers shot only 34 percent from the field and were out-rebounded 40-27 as the Michigan State Spartans won 54-47 Wednesday night in East Lansing, Mich.
Chris Allen led the way for MSU with 16 points, while UW junior forward Jon Leuer led all scorers with 21 points.
The Badgers never led in the game, but had the ball with a tie score twice in the second half. It was truely a story of missed opportunities and it all added up to one huge missed opportunity in the big picture of the Big Ten.
Senior point guard Trevon Hughes had a particularly frustrating night, which included a first half ankle injury that required him to go back to the locker room for treatment before returning minutes later. It's unclear how much the injury affected him during the game, but Hughes only made 3-of-12 shots on the night and was held to just seven points.
In a game where Michigan State left the door open to Wisconsin so many times, Hughes was just as guilty as anyone for not taking advantage. With the score tied 22-22 with 18:04 left in the game, Hughes went to the line with the opportunity to give Wisconsin its first lead of the game. Instead, he missed both of them. It would be his only trip to the line the entire game.
One could easily argue that Hughes -- along with a number of Badger players -- we lacking a sense of urgency Wednesday night. Senior Jason Bohannon took only two shots until the final 97 seconds of the game when the Badgers trailed by eight. He also missed a chance to cut the deficit down to four with 32 seconds left when he missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Sophomore Jordan Taylor stepped up his play when Hughes left with the injury in the first half, making two field goals, but he didn't make a shot the rest of the night -- including three threes -- and finished with seven points on 2-of-6 shooting.
Those seven points were the only points the Badgers got from their bench all night and the lack of production from UW's secondary options was alarming. Starter Keaton Nankivil only scored two points as he got into foul trouble and only played 15 minutes. That means Tim Jarmusz, Ryan Evans, Mike Bruesewitz and Rob Wilson accounted for zero points in a combined 43 minutes of play. Ouch.
But despite shooting poorly, not rebounding, giving up easy layups and having players completely disappear, Wisconsin only lost by seven points to the tenth-ranked team in the country and had the game tied four separate times in the second half. Consider it a small consolation for a team that now knows it can not only hang with the Big Ten's best, but it can actually beat them if they play the way they are capable of playing.
That's good news because the 14-0 Purdue Boilermakers come to the Kohl Center Saturday afternoon. It's another opportunity and one that cannot be missed.