In one month, Michigan State altered the Badgers’ season in two very distinct ways. 31 days ago, Wisconsin defeated the Spartans at the Kohl Center, the beginning of a seven-game win streak that enabled them to get back into the NCAA Tournament picture.
On Thursday, however, No. 8 Michigan State (9-5 Big Ten, 22-5 overall) brought the Badgers’ hot streak to a screeching halt with a 69-57 victory in East Lansing.
Never leading once during the game, Wisconsin (8-5, 16-10) struggled immensely on the offensive side of the ball, just shooting 33.9 percent as a team and having serious trouble finding its 3-point game.
After averaging 12 three-pointers in their last three games and 73 points per game, the Badgers were just limited to six threes and were held to 57 points.
Michigan State’s stout defense, especially in the post, denied almost any dribble penetration into the paint which forced Wisconsin to hurl up 20 contested shots from beyond the arc.
From the beginning of the game, UW trailed big, as they were down 14-3, 24-10 and 32-16 all in the first half.
The Badgers went into halftime on a 7-0 run and cut Michigan State’s lead 32-23, but Wisconsin could not recover in the second half as the Spartans maintained a double-digit lead for a majority of the final 20 minutes of the game.
Redshirt freshman forward Ethan Happ and junior guard Bronson Koenig led the Badgers with 18 points and 12 points respectively, but juniors Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown only combined for 10 points after combining for 35 in their last matchup against No. 6 Maryland.
On the other side, Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine showcased why he is one of the nation’s most complete and prolific players. The guard contributed 24 points, 7 boards and 10 rebounds and was clearly the best player on the court Thursday night.
Though the loss does sting for the Badgers, UW will have a few more appealing matchups in the next few weeks against Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan. If they can pull off those wins, Wisconsin should be in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth.
The Badgers will have their first chance to redeem themselves Sunday with a home matchup against Illinois. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.