The Badgers traveled to East Lansing Tuesday night to take on a Michigan State team that has been troubled by ups and downs in the first half of the season.
Coming off a loss at Penn State to one of the few Big Ten teams not expected to make the Tournament, the Spartans needed a solid home-court victory to remain in the hunt for the Big Ten title. While a 64-61 overtime final may not have been the sweep Michigan State had hoped for, a win means that a Big Ten title is still a realistic goal for a team high hopes and even higher expectations. ""A loss could have changed our whole season,"" junior forward Draymond Green said.
The Badgers, who lead the Big Ten in scoring defense with 55.3 points per game allowed, forced the Spartans to settle primarily for contested outside shots early. As a result, at 8:51 left in the first half Wisconsin led 19-7; Michigan State coach Tom Izzo responded with a timeout, and his team followed suit with a 13-4 run to close the half.
The second half was a constant battle. ""That was a physical war, to say the least,"" Izzo said.
After Wisconsin racked up a nine-point lead in the final 4:11 it looked as if the Badgers were going to take home a win. However, Michigan State came back to force the game into overtime.
The Badgers lead the entire nation in fewest turnovers per game, averaging 8.1. After turning the ball over 13 times in their first three Big Ten matches, the Badgers fumbled the rock 11 times on Tuesday night. ""Eleven for them is like 100,"" Izzo said.
""We fell apart. They turned us over and did a good job of pressuring us,"" junior point guard Jordan Taylor said. Taylor leads the nation in assist to turnover margin
With the score tied at 53, overtime was imminent after Keaton Nankivil, who scored 17 points, pinned Kalin Lucas' shot against the backboard.
Momentum was in Michigan State's favor after the Spartans ended regulation on a 9-0 run; the home crowd was electric. Draymond Green capped his career night, which ended with 26 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, by scoring Michigan State's first eight points in overtime.
""He can shoot it from the outside a lot better now. If you can go inside, outside and you're tough covering the glass, that means you are going to get some pretty good numbers,"" said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan.
Even with Green's stellar play, Taylor, who totaled 21 points and seven rebounds, had a chance to put Wisconsin ahead in the final 20 seconds. After Wisconsin missed the top of a key jumper and a half court heave, time ran out.
The Badgers can't dwell on the close defeat. ""I told them, ‘Don't leave anything behind. Pack everything up,'"" Ryan said.
Up next are Demetri McCamey and No. 16 Illinois who come to the Kohl Center this Saturday. Wisconsin will be looking to even the score after Illinois got the best of the Badgers earlier this month in Champaign.