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No. 16 Wisconsin loses 84-74 at Michigan State

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Free throws and three-point shooting doomed the Badgers in East Lansing.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The swoon continues.

No. 16 Wisconsin entered Sunday’s matchup with Michigan State having lost three of its last four games, including a rough loss on the road at Ohio State on Thursday.

With a win against the Spartans, the Badgers (22-7 overall, 11-5 Big Ten) would look to keep pace atop the Big Ten and finally grab a victory at the Breslin Center for the first time in this senior class’s career. Michigan State (18-11 overall, 10-6 Big Ten), on the other hand, looked to solidify its bubble position with a win.

As has been the case for the past six weeks, the Badgers struggled from beyond the arc and from the line. Wisconsin finished the game 5-of-18 from three, including just 1-of-9 in the second half, and shot a paltry 13-of-25 from the charity stripe.

Senior forward Nigel Hayes finished the game with a double-double, dropping 22 points and 11 rebounds, but managed to convert only four of 12 from the free-throw line. Sophomore Ethan Happ struggled, scoring just eight points to go with 11 rebounds. Senior Bronson Koenig had 17 points, but shot only 1-of-9 from behind the arc.

Wisconsin jumped out to an early 10-4 lead, but struggled with early defensive switches and soon found itself down. Michigan State extended its first-half lead to as large as 13 points before a 9-0 Wisconsin run to close the frame brought the halftime score to 38-37.

The Badgers could not press the advantage, however, and never regained the lead. Michigan State managed to ride out a couple of Wisconsin runs and closed out the game with relative ease when the Badgers failed to convert a couple of three-point opportunities after cutting the lead to seven with four minutes to play.

Wisconsin has now given up 80+ points in back-to-back games. While the shooting from the floor has improved, the Badgers have shot less than 30 percent from three-point range in three of the past four games. Wisconsin has shot less than 75 percent from the free-throw line in 13 of the past 14 games.

With the loss, Wisconsin drops off the pace in the Big Ten, falling a game behind Purdue with two to play and the Boilermakers holding the tiebreak. The Badgers host Iowa and Minnesota at the Kohl Center to close the season and look to sew up a double-bye with a win against the Hawkeyes on Thursday.