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3 quick takeaways from the Badgers 81-66 win over Michigan State

The Badgers put together a strong offensive showing in their win on Friday.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Wisconsin Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers finished their week on a strong note, defeating the Michigan State Spartans at home 81-66 in a strong performance on both ends.

In the win, the Badgers shot the ball with much better efficiency, hitting 50.9 percent of their shots from the field and 36 percent from the three, while averaging 1.35 points per possession on the day.

Defensively, the Badgers allowed the Spartans to shoot just 41.7 percent from the field, as Michigan State ended up scoring just 1.01 points per possession on the day.

Here are three quick takeaways from the Badgers’ 81-66 win over the Michigan State Spartans.

Chucky Hepburn

Chucky Hepburn did not have a single field goal on Monday until the final minute, ending with 3 points in the Badgers win.

So, why does he make tonight’s column? Well, Hepburn’s main task on Friday wasn’t to take over offensively, but rather to make life as difficult as possible for Michigan State guard Tyson Walker and he succeeded at that.

Hepburn limited Walker to 11 points on 4/14 shooting, but his presence was felt much deeper than the stat sheet.

Hepburn stuck with his assignment in a grueling battle, working hard off-ball as Walker went through screens, both on and off the ball, to get freed up, but nothing stuck.

The Badgers guard ended with three steals, effectively shutting down Michigan State’s leading scorer and main lifeline.

If Walker is able to operate at his normal rate, this one is a much closer ball game. But, Hepburn was integral to Wisconsin’s defensive approach, taking on the toughest assignment and playing extremely hard on that end to limit Walker’s impact.

Bench scoring

The Badgers had a successful first half, scoring 43 points on 55.6 percent shooting to take a nine-point lead at halftime.

However, it was a close game for a good portion of the first half until Wisconsin slowly crept away with an 11-6 stretch starting with 5:13 left in the period, where the Badgers’ bench came to life.

Connor Essegian and Nolan Winter both hit threes, while John Blackwell had a jumper and a converted and-1 during this stretch, which made for all 11 points.

The bench was crucial for the Badgers in this one, as the group scored 22 total points, compared to only four for Michigan State’s backups.

And, that came with all of Wisconsin’s starters playing at least 29 minutes.

Connor Essegian had eight points, scoring on a pair of threes, as well as another nice midrange jumper to finish at 3/4 shooting.

Nolan Winter pulled the trigger on a pair of threes as well, while John Blackwell had five points and Carter Gilmore had three.

This is the difference with this year’s Badgers’ team; they’re much deeper than last year’s squad, allowing them to trust their backup unit when needed, and they were the difference maker in Friday’s game.

Paint defense

The Badgers came into this game with some defensive questions, as they were second-to-last in the Big Ten in opponent field goal and three-point percentage, while the Spartans were one of the better shooting teams in the conference, hitting over 47 percent of their shots and 36 percent of their threes.

Well, on Friday, Wisconsin held Michigan State to just 66 points and 41.7 percent from the field. It’s even more impressive when you consider that the Spartans shot even better from three (42.9 percent) than from inside the arc.

The Badgers were phenomenal with their paint defense, contesting many shots after Michigan State missed open looks early, which led to tough opportunities for the Spartans that they ultimately couldn’t convert.

Michigan State shot only 41.3 percent on twos, and had only 12 free throws, while shooting an ugly 7/19 on layups.

The Badgers got things clicking defensively on Friday and it was a strong performance on that end, as the team is heading in the right direction going into a tough week against Nebraska and Purdue.