Entering Tuesday night's game, I expected the matchups in the frontcourt to dictate the outcome. With featured big men Adreian Payne (6-foot-10, 240 pounds) and Derrick Nix (6-foot-9, 270 pounds), Michigan State appeared to own a major advantage in the paint.
However, Wisconsin's frontcourt was superb defensively, locking up Payne and Nix and forcing them into highly contested shots. Payne and Nix combined for just four points on 2-of-9 shooting, as they also corralled eight boards.
The Badgers' defense did more than enough to win the game -- much more than you could say for their offense.
UW scored just 47 points at home against the Spartans, with Mike Bruesewitz as the lone player to reach double-digits in scoring (10 points). They were seven of 18 from the charity stripe, including key misses from Jared Berggren and George Marshall down the stretch. It's frustrating a Bo Ryan-led team -- which prides itself on fundamental basketball -- has proven it cannot make even a respectable amount of free throw attempts on a consistent basis. There is simply no excuse for missed free throws. They are the easiest part of one's game to improve and ultimately come down to work ethic and focus. Free throws can often be the difference in the outcome of a game, as was evident Tuesday night.
But it's not just the free throw shooting for the Badgers. If you thought their free throw shooting was bad (38.9 percent), just look at their field goal percentage. UW shot just 29.6 percent (16-of-54) from the field last night. I know the Badgers played solid defensively and it was a tight game until the end, but no team that shoots that poorly deserves to win.
The Badgers failed to knock down numerous open looks, but too many of those were three point attempts (8-of-27 from 3-point land). As we've seen before, there wasn't enough penetration to the basket for higher percentage shots and even Jared Berrgren -- typically the rock on the low block -- was off his game last night as well.
Tom Oates says why the Spartans win with a similar formula to UW's, but just execute it better.
Jim Polzin highlights the Badgers' free throw struggles, including the five straight missed attempts to end the Michigan State game.
It's the big story folks: Jeff Potrykus also talks about Wisconsin's costly missed free throws.
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And a last look at the Michigan State basketball game.