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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Michigan State Spartans: Grades

The Badgers had one of their best wins of the season in a double-digit victory over Michigan State.

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

The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Michigan State Spartans 81-66 on Thursday, compiling one of their strongest performances of the season in the double-digit victory.

In the win, Wisconsin put up 43 points in the first half in a strong offensive half before holding Michigan State to 38 percent shooting in the second half, ultimately winning by 15 in a well-rounded win.

Standing at 16-4, the Badgers now hold a three-game win streak heading into a tough week ahead.

But, first, here are my grades for the Badgers against Michigan State.

Offense: A

The Badgers' offensive display this Friday against Michigan State was amazing.

A.J. Storr went off for 24 points, adding in three three-pointers and getting to the foul line for eight free throw attempts.

Steven Crowl came in clutch, getting to his spot in the paint for five paint buckets. He also hit a three midway through the second half.

Off the bench, Connor Essegian and Nolan Winter dropped two bombs from deep each. John Blackwell also came in with a crucial 5 points. These bench points were big and gave a boost to the Badgers’ offense when they needed it near the end of the first half.

Essegian ended the night with 8 points, but once again was a little shaky on defense, committing three fouls. This offense should have been an A+, but they did hit some rough patches in the first and second halfs.

A big miss came at about 12 minutes into the second when the Badgers went on a near-five-minute scoreless streak. While the defense and the big lead were able to cushion the lack of the score, these kinds of scoreless runs show that the Badgers have to find a way to find a spark plug to get this offense going, as they did in other portions of the game. Another big attribute is getting those threes from the big men Crowl and Winter.

Putting a stretch big and allowing the offense to run through the high post has been highly efficient for the Badgers. If they can continue this with good play from the bigs, the Badgers will continue to be an offensive force as March nears.

Defense: A

The Badgers' defense was great this evening, coming up big when it mattered and continuing to play their tough hard-on-ball defense.

While Chucky Hepburn did not play a great game offensively as a scorer, he was huge on defense, especially when guarding up on Michigan State star guard Tyson Walker.

Hepburn held him to just 11 points and came up with a game-high 3 steals. The intensity and hustle that Hepburn brought on defense uplifted the whole team.

What really stood out to me was the chemistry this defense plays with, showing their well-timed rotations with players always in the right spot. They were able to push Michigan State to take bad shots late in the play clock. There were certain runs once again where the defense struggled to get a stop, with the longest today being on 6 straight possessions for. Luckily, when the defense was struggling, the offense was rolling, and those stretches were rare.

Once again, the Badgers were rolling on the complementary game.

Coaching: A

The rotations in this game and the overall game plan were spot on.

The plan to limit Tyson Walker was clear, having Chucky Hepburn pick him up from nearly past half-court and stick on him like glue.

That clearly worked, with Walker finishing the game with 11 points and only four in the first half. Offensively, the plan was to get to the paint and suck that defense in to get looks on the perimeter, which also worked.

Early in the game, Crowl was able to succeed inside and that gave the Spartans a scare, making them move their defense based on the Badgers’ big man and sometimes bringing double teams.

This led to open shots on the perimeter, which were knocked down by A.J. Storr, Connor Essegian, and Nolan Winter.

Head coach Greg Gard did a great job of giving the starters their minutes as well as putting some spark plugs in to get the offensive production going. With Winter and Blackwell playing well this season, they are providing useful minutes off the bench and growing into their roles. With backup point guard Kamari McGee out due to an injury, Connor Essegian saw a few more minutes and capitalized with two big threes and a nice jumper off the dribble from the corner.

With the Badgers' young core providing valuable minutes and points, the starters are able to play more stress-free and just play their game. This balance is going to be very important to the success of the team for the rest of the season.