Michigan State 69, Wisconsin 55 -- Onward and Upward

So how ugly did this game look at the start? Michigan State got out to a quick lead. Then the game, like so many MSU-Wisconsin games before, stalled indeterminately. Both teams took turns missing three-pointers and turning the ball over. When the game was tied 12-12 sometime in the first half (my apologies for the vagueness, I'm writing this before a play-by-play transcript is out), the Spartans did the unthinkable -- they managed to score fast break points against Wisconsin, the most impressive of which was a turnover caused by Derrick Nix poking the ball away from a driver, which then went to Branden Dawson who got the and-one.

Speaking of and-ones, WEREN'T THERE A LOT OF THEM WHOO-HEE-BOB. The plot was this a good portion of the time: MSU drives to the basket, Wisconsin fouls, ball goes in. All told the Spartans had eight and-ones this game; their previous high for the season was three. Take that plus Austin Thornton's accuracy on long two-pointers plus Appling's drives plus Wood's defense plus another typical great Draymond game, and you have a decisive MSU win.

Player bullets after the jump.

Player bullets y'all.

  • Draymond Green: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 3 turnovers. This could've been the turning point for Green's campaign for Big Ten Player of the Year -- as MSU fans, we expect him to have a double-double each game, no matter what the opponent. After going scoreless in the first ten minutes, he got his 20 in the next half-hour, going 3-5 from 2, 2-4 from three, and 8-11 from the foul line. He's got my vote.
  • Keith Appling: 20 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 turnovers. To me it didn't seem like Keith had 20 points in this game, but that's what going 6-8 inside the arc and 0-4 outside the arc will do to an opinion -- it'll skew it. I'd take this game as a positive for Keith despite the inaccuracy from long-range; his three-point shot won't stay lost forever.
  • Austin Thornton: 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist. The box score is still preliminary, but if it holds Thornton would have the second most rebounds for MSU against Wisconsin. That's telling of his game as a whole, because he seemed to do all the little things: he got 6 of MSU's first 12 points on long jumpers, came down with three offensive boards, drew two big offensive fouls on the Badgers in the second half, etc. It's one of the best games I've seen from him.
  • Brandon Wood: 2 points, 2 assists, 2 steals. The stat line is not indicative of how Wood performed in his 16 minutes in this game; he played through this game with a shoulder injury, yet he always seemed to be in the right place on defense. I can't describe it too well through words, so I'll just have to use this one: "BRAVO".
As for everyone else in short: Derrick Payne had a decent game, with the Derrick Nix part doing considerably better than the Adreian Payne part. Branden Dawson had 7 points and 3 rebounds, but played well on defense. Despite Brandan Kearney giving up the easiest basket of the game to Wisconsin and giving up an easy shot in the first half, he settled down from there and played very good defense in the second half.

The thing that needs the most work from this game? Defensive rebounding, as the Badgers rebounded 12 of their 35 misses, and threatened to come back late in the second half. MSU closed the game out though, as you most likely surmised from the title of this piece.

Next up is Purdue in West Lafayette on Sunday, and thank goodness they beat Illinois on the road. I want no part of a Boilermaker team with its back against the wall to make the tournament, and at least now they know this game won't make or break them. Barring any engagements with the Badgers in the postseason, this will be the first sweep of Wisconsin since 2001, and that feels gooooooooooooooooooooooood.
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