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Wisconsin basketball: Michigan State recap

The shorthanded Badgers record a HUGE home victory over No. 14 Michigan State on Saturday afternoon.

Dan Sanger

After a rough week off the court, the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (13-9 overall, 6-5 B1G) was back in action on Saturday against the No. 14 Michigan State Spartans (16-6 overall, 8-3 B1G).

The Spartans entered the game tied atop the Big Ten standings, while the Badgers were without suspended guard Brad Davison, and the recently departed Kobe King, who opted to leave the program.

Playing shorthanded, Wisconsin was able to put together a great team effort and secure a statement win, 64-63 over Michigan State.

To start the game, the Badgers leaped out to a six point advantage at the first media timeout thanks to some strong defense and timely three-point shooting. Wisconsin would continue to build on that early momentum, holding a 12 point lead at one point at around the 13 minute mark.

As the first half wore on, the Badgers interior defense would remain stout, as Wisconsin ballooned their lead to 15 with 7:33 remaining in the first stanza. Over the final minutes of the half, Greg Gard’s crew would maintain their strong play, taking a 16 point lead into the intermission after a beautifully drawn up three-point play was executed by Brevin Pritzl.

In the first seven minutes of the second half, Michigan State was able to chip away at the Wisconsin lead, as the Badgers went on a patented six minute scoring drought.

The Badgers would respond though, going on a seven point run of their own, igniting the crowd back into the game.

Over the final minutes of the game, the Badgers would salt away the time and escape with a big one-point victory.

Notable stat lines:

  • D’Mitrik Trice —> 14 points (3-of-12 from the floor), five assists, seven rebounds
  • Nate Reuvers —> 15 points (5-of-9 from the floor), three rebounds, two blocks
  • Aleem Ford —> 13 points (5-of-6 from the floor), five rebounds
  • Cassius Winston (Michigan State) —> 23 points (9-of-19 from the floor), three assists, four rebounds

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: Crowded Kohl Center

With a stripe-out in effect, the Kohl Center patrons were much more boisterous than usual. At times this season, the crowd has been fairly lackluster. That was far from the case on Saturday.

The team was able to feed off of the impressive crowd, as it was very apparent that the Badgers were energized from the tip. Wisconsin is now 10-1 at home, with five more home games still to come as the regular season winds down. If the Badgers can continue their home court dominance, it would go a long way in securing a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

No. 2: Wahling off Michigan State

One of the most notable aspects of the game was Wisconsin’s ability to keep Michigan State out of the interior. The Spartans were only able to amount six points in the paint in the first half, and finished the game with a total of 18.

The Badgers were notably better on the defensive end against Michigan State, and it was a big reason for their success. Michigan State was forced to rely on their backcourt to do most of the damage, and D’Mitrik Trice and Brevin Pritzl did a great job locking on them as well as, while each played an absurd 39 minutes out of the full 40.

For the season, Michigan State came in averaging 77 points per game on 46% shooting. The Badgers were able to hold them down to 63 points for the game. The Spartans second leading scorer Xavier Tillman was held to only seven points on 3-of-15 shooting, while Aaron Henry was also held to only five points.

When Wisconsin plays great defense, they are tough to beat. Go figure.

No. 3: Second half swings

After a storybook first half, the second half was an emotional roller coaster.

The first eight minutes, in which the Badgers struggled mightily to score, left the crowd silent. Michigan State was able to claw back into the game, while Wisconsin couldn’t establish anything.

Wisconsin vaulted back into a commanding lead after a nice run of their own in the middle of the half, but proceeded to go on another extended scoring drought shortly thereafter.

Down the final stretch, neither team could seemingly score, as Wisconsin was able to hold on to a narrow win.

Up next: Wisconsin will be back on the road on Wednesday for a date with rival Minnesota. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. CST on BTN.