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Wisconsin men’s basketball: three things that stood out against Michigan State Pt. II

A look back at Wisconsin’s eight-point road win over Michigan State.

Wisconsin v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers secured a huge road win over Michigan State on Tuesday night, taking down the Spartans by eight points at the Breslin Center.

Let’s dive into three takeaways from the road tilt that featured some improved shooting by Johnny Davis and the Badgers.

Three things that stood out...

No. 1: Defense

The Badgers played tremendous defense in the first half against Michigan State. Not only did Wisconsin force seven turnovers and limit Michigan State to 32% shooting, but more importantly Greg Gard’s bunch held the Spartans to no fast-break points and no three-point makes.

Throughout the first half, the Badgers tended to get their hands on 50-50 balls, and in a game where neither team was overly explosive offensively, the four extra shot attempts Wisconsin accumulated proved to play a key role in their early lead.

As the game progressed, Michigan State would eventually connect on some three-pointers and get going offensively, but the Badgers made life tough on the Spartans all night long. Michigan State came into the game averaging just over 73 points per game and a dangerous team in transition. Wisconsin held them to 11 points below their season average and only eight fast-break points in the win.

Ultimately, the ability of the Badgers to slow the game down and dictate tempo through defense was a big reason for the road victory.

No. 2: The paint

The first time these two teams met, back in January, Michigan State absolutely clobbered the Badgers inside. The Spartans were +8 in points from the paint and +19 on the boards with Tyler Wahl unable to go with an ankle injury.

Tuesday night, with Wahl back in the lineup, Wisconsin was able to hold their own against Michigan State’s experienced frontcourt and ultimately finished the game even with the Spartans in the paint.

Wahl’s presence was a big reason for the improved play against the length of Michigan State, but even players like Ben Carlson and Chris Vogt, who struggled mightily the first time these two team’s met played much better in the rematch.

Wisconsin has relied heavily on scoring production from their backcourt this year, but the frontcourt of Steven Crowl, Wahl, Carlson and Vogt gave the team a much-needed lift on both ends of the court on Tuesday night.

No. 3: Closing time

The Badgers were unable to truly pull away in the first half with Michigan State struggling to do much on offense. Given the lack of separation, it seemed as though it was just a matter of time before Michigan State would get back into the game and make it interesting.

However, when the game got tight late, Wisconsin was able to weather the storm and pull away from the Spartans. The Badgers put together a crucial 6-0 run late that proved to be the difference when it mattered most, and the result is another tough victory in a season that has been littered with close finishes.

Johnny Davis put together a phenomenal game and came up with some big buckets, but the team’s ability to make the plays necessary on the road was incredibly impressive. The Badgers have now won at Mackey Arena and the Breslin Center, two of the toughest places to win at in the Big Ten, and are still in the thick of things for a Big Ten title.

Up next: Wisconsin will return to the Kohl Center on Saturday against Rutgers. The game is scheduled to be aired on FS1 at 1 p.m. CT.