Putting the nail in the coffin: Badgers embarrass Spartans

UW deals serious blow to MSU's tourney hopes as Taylor impresses

MADISON, Wis. - Midway through the second half of Wisconsin's blowout victory over Michigan State, the student section at the Kohl Center began chanting "N.I.T." in reference to the Spartans' dwindling hopes of making their 13th consecutive NCAA Tournament.

After the way MSU played against UW Sunday, "C.B.I." might be more realistic.

No. 19 Wisconsin (17-5, 7-3 Big Ten) thoroughly dominated Michigan State (13-10, 5-6) in an 82-56 win at the Kohl Center in a matinee contest on Super Bowl Sunday.

The Badgers rode their red-hot first-half shooting to a 43-25 lead at the break. Wisconsin shot 65.2 percent from the floor in the first half, including 7-of-10 from 3-point land and a perfect 6-of-6 from the line.

 

"I haven't seen a barrage of shots made like that since I've been in the league," Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. "There were contested shots that they made, there were falling down shots that they made, there were acrobatic shots. That was one of the better shooting performances out of a team that I've seen. And of course free throws, they don't miss."

In the second half, the Badgers drew 14 Spartan fouls, and the best free-throw shooting team in the nation finished the day 25-of-26 from the charity stripe. Wisconsin's 94.4 percent conversion rate was a Kohl Center record. Michigan State attempted just 16 foul shots.

The Badgers limited the Spartans to just 56 points, despite allowing them to shoot 47.8 percent from the floor in the first half. MSU went 1-of-8 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes and finished the game 3-of-14 on 3s. Meanwhile, Wisconsin set a season-high for 3-point field goal percentage, sinking 11-of-17. Izzo refused to question his players' effort, despite their second straight blowout loss. Big Ten bottom-feeder Iowa crushed the Spartans, 72-52 Wednesday night.

"Our defense wasn't great but it just seemed like every guy took his turn," Izzo said of the Badgers. "The guys did everything I asked them to do. They were coachable in the huddles. We made some mistakes, but their shots were bouncing in. I thought our effort was 10 times what it was at Iowa, which means Wisconsin's awfully good." 

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan agreed that not every shot the Badgers made was the result of an open look.

"We made some tough shots today," Ryan said. "Michigan State was guarding the heck out of us. They were doing all the right things, taking away some cuts, doing what they needed to be doing, but we hit some tough shots with the shot clock winding down. It was very difficult to get a good look at the basket. We did what we needed to do. I don't know if you want to rely on a couple of those shots that we made at all times, but you take those away and we were still pretty efficient offensively."

Despite the Spartans' traditional proficiency on the glass and the Badgers' struggles in that area at times this season, Wisconsin out-rebounded Michigan State 24-18. Senior forward Jon Leuer pulled down six boards to lead the effort, but five other players collected at least two rebounds apiece.

Junior point guard Jordan Taylor put on a show, scoring a career-high 30 points on 9-of-13 shooting, with six assists. He drained 3-of-4 3s and sunk 9-of-10 free throws. Taylor is averaging 20.7 points per game in Big Ten play and is starting to earn a mention in the Big Ten player of the year conversation.

"I think with [Jon] Leuer here, being the senior, maybe you don't even hear as much about him on his own team," Izzo said of Taylor. "We had our best defender, Appling, on him, and he did okay. But the types of shots, the way he played under control, he would be a guy I would talk about. I think he played like one of the best guards in the country, not just the Big Ten, today. He definitely has made them a better team. I was very, very impressed."

As for Ryan, he's content with his point guard's tendency to fly under the radar.

"He's been doing just fine without us talking about it," Ryan said. "If you're good, other people will take notice, and there were so many seniors who were back that got the early attention. Then you have a freshman [Jared Sullinger] who starts dominating early. But Jordan just keeps working, shows up every day the same way. He's a leader and he's getting better."

True to form, Taylor highlighted the contributions of his supporting cast.

"It makes it easy when you've got guys who can spread out the defense and try to make a play," Taylor said. "I've got confidence in my teammates and I think they've got confidence in me. It might not look like the greatest shot if you're forced into taking it with the shot clock down, but you just have to have confidence that it's going to go in."

Leuer added 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting but made uncharacteristic turnovers (4) for the second straight game. 

Starters Tim Jarmusz and Josh Gasser combined for 14 points, and Jarmusz went a perfect 6-for-6 at the line and grabbed two offensive rebounds.

Wisconsin's bench didn't contribute much, but with the Big Three of Taylor, Leuer and senior forward Keaton Nankivil combining to score 61 points, it didn't have to. Non-starters tallied just seven points, including a 3-pointer from freshman guard Ben Brust as time expired.

Five days after a breakout performance in Wisconsin's win over Purdue, redshirt sophomore Ryan Evans played ten minutes, hit two free throws and flirted with foul trouble, committing four infractions.

Still, if Taylor continues to play like he has been and the Badgers continue to display the kind of offensive efficiency that led to 82 points against the Spartans, Wisconsin will be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament. There was at least one believer in the interview room after the game.

"I they shoot like that, they'll win the National Championship," Izzo said. "I really mean that. I thought they were that impressive shooting the ball. If they keep doing that, they're going to go a long way. Some teams have played well against us, and none better than Wisconsin today."

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