After winning three straight contests against ranked teams away from the Kohl Center, the Wisconsin Badgers (11-7 overall, 4-3 B1G) had their biggest test of the season Friday night against the Michigan State Spartans (14-4 overall, 6-1 B1G) in East Lansing. The game featured two of the top teams in the Big Ten this season, and the Badgers were within striking distance of first place in the conference before tip-off.
That was not to be though, as Michigan State would take care of business at home against Wisconsin, winning 67-55.
In the opening moments of the game, Michigan State would jump out to an early lead on the Badgers. Wisconsin was forced into some contested jump shots, and they weren’t falling in the first few minutes. Instead, Wisconsin found themselves in an eight point hole at the first media timeout.
In an attempt to spark the offense, Greg Gard utilized a lineup with Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers on the court at the same time, something that many fans have been clamoring for. The lineup yielded very little difference in outcome though, as the Badgers were only able to cut the lead by a point prior to the 12 minute mark.
Michigan State would proceed to go on a run to further the deficit, killing the Badgers in transition and behind the three-point arc, while Wisconsin continued to struggle on offense. The Badgers would go into the halfway mark trailing by 13, and were severely outplayed in the first half.
Maybe the #Badgers can hit the showers during the half to see if it heats up the offense.— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) January 18, 2020
Wisconsin trails 33-20 at the half.
D'Mitrik Trice and Nate Reuvers with 5 point each, but the team shooting a meager 29% so far and only 11% from 3.
In the first four minutes of the second half, Wisconsin would go on a quick 13-0 run to trim the lead to six thanks to three triples by Reuvers and some improved defense.
Michigan State would counteract the run quickly however, going on a 11-2 stretch of their own to take a 15 point lead with 11:30 to play.
The problems for Wisconsin only continued though, and the Michigan State run only grew. The Spartans were able to get out in transition, and showed their athleticism with some “wow” moments.
Wisconsin was unable to close the margin considerably down the stretch, as Michigan State would go on to win by 12 points over the Badgers at home to bolster their stranglehold at the top of the Big Ten.
The #Badgers fall to MSU 67-55.— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) January 18, 2020
Wisconsin struggles offensively, shooting only 35%, paced by Nate Reuvers with 19 points.
Notable stat lines:
- Nate Reuvers —> 19 points (7-of-15 from the floor), seven rebounds, two blocks
- D’Mitrik Trice —> 9 points (4-of-9 from the floor), five rebounds, four assists, one steal
- Kobe King —> 10 points (4-of-11 from the floor), one assist, one steal
- Xavier Tillman —> 15 points (6-of-14 from the floor), nine rebounds, four assists
Three things that stood out:
No. 1: No contest
Against Michigan State nothing came easy for the Badgers offensively. Wisconsin routinely seemed out of rhythm and were forced to resort to contested jump shots. The result was anything but positive, as the Badgers shot a wretched 29% in the first half, and 36% for the game.
Credit to the Michigan State defense, but Wisconsin also couldn’t get anything going all night. The Spartans were right in the hip pocket of the Badgers at all times, and Wisconsin was unable to make the plays necessary to overcome the pressure outside the early run in the second half.
No. 2: Pace yourself
Wisconsin was on their winning stretch since Micah Potter joined the lineup, in large part because of solid defensive play and the ability to dictate tempo. That unraveled against Michigan State. Michigan State was able to score 19 points in transition, a big reason for their success.
All night long Michigan State was able to determine the pace of the game, and the outcome was not beneficial for Wisconsin. The Badgers have won this season by slowing the game down and muddying the waters, this game they were unable to do so.
MICAH POTTER AND NATE REUVERS ARE ON THE COURT TOGETHER! pic.twitter.com/pTwBnydmbq— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) January 18, 2020
No. 3: Worse news
In garbage time, Brad Davison limped off with an apparent ankle injury. While the game was hard to stomach, hopefully Davison is alright. A potential injury to your starting shooting guard is rarely what a team needs, but this would be particularly hard for the Badgers given the lack of guard depth that Wisconsin has. While the injury did not look particularly worrisome, it is something to monitor prior to next week’s match up with Nebraska.
Up next: Wisconsin will be back on the hardwood Tuesday night at 8 p.m. CST on BTN as they face off against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at the Kohl Center.