East Lansing, Mich. — The 8th ranked Michigan State Spartans dominated the 17th ranked Wisconsin Badgers (69-55) in a pivotal Big Ten showdown.
Michigan State became the only team this season to shoot over 50 percent against the Wisconsin Badgers, as they racked in their nation leading 6th win against a ranked team this season.
Wisconsin was hot as of late, as they had won 7 of their past 8 before heading into the Breslin Center.
The 8th ranked Spartans were led by sophomore point guard Keith Appling and senior forward Draymond Green.
Appling scored 20 points with 4 assists, and led the Spartans in transition, where they outscored the Badgers 15-0 in fast-break points.
The sophomore point guard did a phenomenal job of defending Jordan Taylor, one of the countries best guards. Appling played a major role in Taylor’s 3-of-13 shooting performance from the field. “Taylor is a great player,” said Appling. “I just had to stay solid, not use my hands, and contest every shot.”
Draymond Green had a routinely excellent game tonight for the Spartans, scoring 20 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
Green’s presence on the floor is not just felt by the players on the court, but even Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan had a few good words about the Michigan State senior, saying, “Draymond is a guy you would like to have.”
Draymond’s efficiency from the floor made his coach Tom Izzo very pleased tonight. “For a guy that only got 9 shots, he still does a lot of damage for all the things he does,” Izzo said. “He has grown up so much.”
Michigan State started out the game on a 6-0 run, which surprisingly included two jump shots from senior guard Austin Thornton.
The Spartans allowed the Badgers to get going offensively, as the Badgers went on a 12-2 run kicked-off by a Jared Berggren lay-up with 16:39 left in the first half.
Wisconsin was up 12-8 when Draymond Green went to the charity stripe and knocked down two free throws.
From their, the Spartans went on a 14-0 run fueled by fast-break offense.
Michigan State was up 29-17 with under a minute left when Draymond Green found Keith Appling in the open court and he finished off the pass with a dunk.
Jordan Taylor responded with mid-range jump shot with :05 left in the first half to make the score 31-19 heading into halftime.
Defensively, Michigan State played one of their best halves all season. The Spartans held Wisconsin to 31.8 percent from the field on 7-22 shooting.
Michigan State had several defensive stands in which the Badger offense had to heave the ball at the rim as the shot clock was nearing zero.
The second half was much of the same story for the Badgers, who only shot 35.5 percent from the field.
Wisconsin made a little bit of a run late in the 2nd half led by Jordan Taylor and Ryan Evans.
With 3:14 left in the 2nd half Ryan Evans knocked down two free throws that cut the game to nine, but the Spartans had control.
The score was 60-51 in favor of Sparty following the free throws from Evans. From their, the Spartans went on a 9-4 run to close out the game in the same fashion that had them in control for the majority of the match-up.
Tom Izzo stated that the keys to his teams victory was their ability to limit turnovers and limit their fouls.
Michigan State had a complete showing tonight. Not just on the court, but in the stands also, as this was one of the loudest games in the Breslin Center this season. “I told my team at halftime, you’re getting this crowd going like old times,” Izzo said.
MSU is starting to look like the MSU of old on the court also, and if that’s the case, watch out come March.
With Travis Trice out with a sprained ankle and Brandon Wood not really picking up a basketball since the Spartans victory over the Buckeyes last Saturday due to a shoulder injury, Izzo was expecting Austin Thornton and Brandan Kearney to pick-up some slack.
Thornton was 3-of-3 from the field for 6 points, but did a solid job on defense causing a few turnovers.
The freshman Kearney did not statistically have a great game, but his presence on the defensive end and his ability to run the team when Keith Appling was on the bench was superb.
Tom Izzo is very happy with the way his team has been playing as of late, and he thinks they have not yet reached their peak and still have room to grow.
“Consistency with Nix and Payne,” Izzo said when asked where his team could improve. “Consistency with both of them.”
Payne who had one of the best games of his career last Saturday against Ohio State, was a non-factor tonight against the Badgers. The sophomore center was 1-of-5 from the field with 2 points and only 2 rebounds.
On the other hand, former Michigan Mr.Basketball Derrick Nix, had a solid game tonight for the Spartans. Nix went 5-of-7 from the floor with 12 points and 2 rebounds.
If Michigan State can get consistency from these two men, I think that they could win not just the Big Ten title, but the National Championship as well. When both of these men are at their best and the Spartans can run their offense through the paint, there are not many teams in the country that can beat them. Can Izzo get his two big men to play with the type of aggression and toughness that they have shown flashes of this season as March nears? That is the biggest question coming out of East Lansing.
Michigan State faces a tough challenge ahead, as they play 5 games in 13 days. With injuries to Trice and Wood, and not being able to get that many practices in with so many games in so little time, the Spartans are going to have to focus and close out this Big Ten regular season.
“I never wanted to be in the NBA, but I see what it’s like now,” Izzo said about having key players hurt with this stretch of games coming up.
The Spartans head to Mackey Arena this Sunday to take on the Purdue Boilermakers in a place that is always hard to win on the road.
Wisconsin hosts Penn State on Sunday, in a game that the Badgers cannot afford to lose.
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