Well that was definitely easier than expected.
With a Kohl Center standing ovation drowning out the Grateful Red's ""Bo owns Izzo"" chant, the clock ran out on Michigan State's chance for a perfect Big Ten season and propelled Wisconsin back into the race for a Big Ten title.
The Badgers' 67-49 rout of No. 5 Michigan State (9-1 Big Ten, 19-4 overall) not only extended head coach Bo Ryan's home court perfection against the Spartans to seven games and pushed the Badgers' overall home winning streak to 18, but also proved to a national audience that this home court dominance is not a fluke.
Both teams got off to a cold start in front of a packed Kohl Center crowd. The two 3s, one by sophomore guard Jordan Taylor and one by senior guard Jason Bohannon, got the Badgers off the ground and opened up a 6-1 lead for No. 16 Wisconsin (17-5, 7-3).
Soon after, senior guard and frequent leader Trevon Hughes, who has struggled against the Spartans in the past, was notched for his second quick foul that sent him to the bench and ultimately put the game in the hands of Taylor and Bohannon.
""I think a lot of guys on our team were confident,"" Taylor said. ""I think it's part of coach's philosophy.""
With Hughes on the bench the Badgers built an even greater advantage. Taylor hit his second 3 off a pass from junior forward Keaton Nankivil, extending the lead to 13-4. And then on Wisconsin's next possession he kicked the ball out to junior Tim Jarmusz who contributed with a 3 of his own.
The Badgers hit a total of six 3s in the first half. It could have been as much as eight but both Bohannon and Taylor each hit field goals with their foot on the line.
""Some games we can't buy a bucket early,"" Ryan said. ""Some games you get on a little run. You just have to stay even-keeled with your players and the players have to stay that way. The players have to believe that if we can get an open look we're going to shoot it.""
By halftime Wisconsin had opened up a 38-23 lead while shooting 55 percent and piling up 10 assists.
The sense was if the Badgers could weather a Michigan State run, the game was theirs for the taking. And as it turned out, Wisconsin gave the Spartans their opportunity right away.
Hughes, who only played four minutes in the first half, came out shooting. The problem was he could not seem to find this stroke. He missed two layups and nearly air-balled a 3 before settling down and beginning to look to dish the ball.
The Spartans took advantage of the sloppiness. Sophomore forward Delvon Roe hit two consecutive shots and junior guard Durrell Summers, who led the Spartans with 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, hit a long shot inside the arc to cut the Badgers' lead down to eight.
Nankivil did not match the success he had against the Boilermakers last Thursday, but he did continue his niche of hitting the mid-range jumper. The Spartans compensated for Nankivil's 3-point threat, opening up the opportunity for high ball screens and guard penetration, which lea to a 24-12 points-in-the-paint advantage for the Badgers.
Wisconsin also caught a break when last year's Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas rolled his ankle after coming down on Nankivil's foot. The play led to an easy layup for Bohannon, and after that, the Badgers were clicking on all cylinders and had Michigan State just putting off the inevitable.
""We made some adjustments and it just wasn't the night to do it right,"" MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. ""And then when [Kalin] Lucas went down it really compounded problems. Wisconsin played awfully well, about as good as I have seen them play all year and that's a credit to them.""