After a back-and-forth game that featured a remarkable 12 lead changes, Michigan State (11-3 Big Ten, 20-5 overall) pulled out a thrilling 67-59 victory over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center.
The Badgers fell to 17-8 on the year, including 9-5 in the Big Ten. Senior center Ethan Happ passed 2,000 points for his career while also setting the all-time school record for double-doubles, scoring 20 with 12 rebounds. He had 12 points in the second half. Sophomore forward Nate Reuvers hit three triples (season high: four) and scored 11 points.
Charles Thomas, Brevin Pritzl and Kobe King provided a huge spark in the first half, combining for 13 points off the bench. Pritzl scored all seven of his first-half points in a three-minute span in which he drew a flagrant foul on MSU guard Matt McQuaid, knocked down a three and converted a dunk in transition. Outside of Pritzl, Wisconsin’s guards mustered only 19 points.
Thomas, tasked with battling the Spartans’ big men, scored only two points but also had two rebounds, a block and a steal. King, meanwhile, knocked down two big jump shots to stem the tide after MSU went on an 8-0 run to take the lead. Despite their efforts in the first 20 minutes, the bench only had two points in the second half. In fact, no player other than Happ scored more than one field goal in the second half.
Wisconsin’s inability to protect the leads it had built made it all the harder to pull out a victory. In addition to the 8-0 run, the Spartans went on a 12-0 streak after falling behind by six early in the second half. Happ then scored six consecutive points to knot the game up, but MSU seemed to have an answer at every turn. Not enough shots fell for UW down the stretch, who didn’t score between the 5:20 mark and the 10-second mark to lose their second-straight game. Happ missed two late free-throws that could have pulled the Badgers within one, and finished 0-for-6 on the day from the line in spite of his other contributions.
Michigan State’s Cassius Winston, a presumptive All-American, scored 23 points. Against a Badgers defense which had previously stifled superstar guards Markus Howard, Anthony Cowan Jr. (twice) and Carsen Edwards, he struggled for long stretches, but still was able to assert himself. The Badgers were forced to constantly switch on high-ball screens, furnishing Winston with the opportunity to exploit mismatches. He scored seven points in the final two minutes of the first half, practically leading the Spartans back from a 32-25 deficit on his own. He then had eight in the second period.
The Badgers now get six days off before another home game against Illinois next Monday.