MADISON – #10 Michigan State held #20 Wisconsin to just one field goal over the final six minutes of the game to beat the Badgers in the Kohl Center, 67-59. Cassius Winston scored a game-high 23 points for the Spartans, including four triples.
Wisconsin dropped its second straight after winning six in a row, and MSU won its second straight games after a three-game losing streak.
“The whole night we were throwing punches back and forth,” Happ said. “We definitely felt like we were in a position to win this game.”
Wisconsin did not get the production from its starters it needed to pull off the upset. Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice combined to go just four-of-18 for Wisconsin, and Khalil Iverson played just 13 minutes. Happ scored 20 points but had ten missed shots, six turnovers, and went 0/6 from the free throw line, including some timely misses.
Wisconsin, looking to go 3-0 at the Kohl Center against top-25 ranked teams this season, went to halftime leading 38-37 because of the bench. Kobe King, Charles Thomas, and especially Brevin Pritzl all provided scoring for Wisconsin to the tune of 13 points. Greg Gard’s bench is far from the strongest part of his basketball team, but it showed up for a half on Tuesday night.
Pritzl provided a spark for the Badgers with the game tied at 22 apiece. Pritzl was fouled and made the shot, appearing like an and-one. The officials waived the bucket but went to the monitor and ruled the play a technical foul on Michigan State, resulting in two converted free throws for the junior.
On the ensuing offensive possession, Iverson found Pritzl in wide open in the corner for three after drawing two defenders in the lane. Pritzl was on a personal 5-0 run.
It did not stop there for Pritzl. After a strong finish in the lane by Davison, giving the Badgers a five-point lead, Davison stole an errant MSU pass. Pritzl beat everyone down the floor for an easy dunk. Pritzl catapulted a 9-2 run that gave Wisconsin a seven-point advantage.
In just four possessions, however, the Spartans wiped out Wisconsin’s lead. Tom Izzo’s squad scored on four straight possessions, three of them being triples, including a pair from Cassius Winston who had 14 at the break. The teams closed out the half combined seven-of-eight to conclude a back-and-forth first half.
“It was a war,” Tom Izzo said after the game. “38-37 game at halftime between us and Wisconsin is kind of Un-American.”
Although the bench was playing well, Wisconsin’s superstar struggled despite leading the team in scoring. Ethan Happ started four-of-11 from the field. He opened up the second half with two travels and an offensive foul as it became apparent the Badgers were still going to need others to step up.
While Wisconsin’s offense started floundering, the Spartans seemed to figure the Badgers out. MSU ripped off a 12-0 lead to take their largest lead of the game, 49-43. Winston hit two jumpers during the run.
“Consummate point guard,” Greg Gard said of Winston. “I think he’s one of the top two point guards in the league.”
Trailing by six points with his team on the ropes, Happ started to play like an All-American. Happ used his patented footwork to get just enough space from MSU’s big men down low for three straight buckets and his own personal 6-0 run to bring the game back to even. Happ had chances to extend his run, but could not convert from the free throw line. At one point, Happ had scored 12 of 14 points for Wisconsin and scored his 2,000th career point in the process.
The Badgers went cold at the wrong time, however. After Happ hit a bucket in the paint with just over six minutes remaining, Wisconsin went cold from the field, not converting another bucket until Wisconsin was down nine with under 15 seconds remaining.
Happ had a chance to bring it within one from the free throw line but again missed both opportunities. Goins would hit the dagger with a three for the Spartans, and Ward capitalized the win with an and-one runout.
The Badgers lost for the first time this season against a ranked opponent at home.
Michigan State scored 13 fastbreak points, something Izzo cited as important post-game, as you can catch Wisconsin’s stout defense off guard. Michigan State also scored more second-chance points, points in the paint, and shot it better from three.
Reuvers was the Badgers second scorer with 11 points. The thin-framed Reuvers had his hands full with Nick Ward but held his own on the defensive end.
Wisconsin’s record stands at 17-8 overall, and 9-5 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin plays Illinois in the Kohl Center on Monday.