A winning streak at the Kohl Center?
After breaking a 10-year losing streak in Madison a year ago, this year's Spartan squad squeaked out another huge win, this one without getting to 50 points. It was MSU's fewest points in a Big Ten win since a 43-32 win over Michigan in 1951 — MSU's first year in the conference for hoops, according to CBS.
If you thought football season took years off your life, what about this basketball team? 5-0 in games decided by three points or less, including two straight. (Plus a 1-1 record in games decided by four points).
MSU now holds a one-game lead in the conference over 4-1 Michigan and Indiana. They just finished up a stretch of five games in 13 days, going 5-0.
Against Wisconsin, this one was bound to be close. This one was a double shutout until Wisconsin hit a 3 four minutes into the game. It took another minute for MSU's first bucket. The Badgers' lead was as big as seven points at 19-12 with nine minutes to go in the half, but MSU went on a (slow) 15-7 run before a layup in the finals seconds gave Wisconsin a 28-27 lead at the break.
MSU was keyed by three #KeithAppling3PointSightings in the half, including one that was a four-point play. Outside of him and Dawson, there wasn't much else from MSU, and that would be the case the rest of the night.
An 8-3 run to open the half gave MSU a four-point lead. Then Russell Byrd happened. Two turnovers and two jumpers (including a 3), gave Wisconsin the lead back. At this point, I can't blame Byrd as much as Izzo for putting him in there. He's a kid with zero confidence who hasn't shown you anything this year, while Alex Gauna and Matt Costello actually weren't half-bad in the first half. Byrd came out, and MSU got back to work with a 6-0 run to take a 43-39 lead with nine minutes to go.
At this point, it didn't really feel like Wisconsin deserved to be in the game, but MSU couldn't pull away. A layup by Dawson with 6:58 to go to give MSU a 47-43 lead would be MSU's last field goal of the game. A free-throw made it 47-44 with 6:19 to go, and that would be the last scoring for four minutes, when Dawson made a free-throw. Leading by four, Mike Bruesewitz missed a three-pointer, and Dawson jumped above everyone again to grab the rebound, but he couldn't hold onto it, making me a jinx.
The ball got around to Ryan Evans, who hit a three-pointer, making me another jinx, because I had pointed out several times that Evans was 1-for-18 on 3s entering the night and 1-for-11 from the floor at that point. So MSU is right back in the same situation it was against Ohio State. But Gary Harris split the free-throws, meaning Wisconsin could win. George Marshall dove and was fouled by Payne with three seconds left. He missed the first, and had to miss the second on purpose, but missed the free throw. MSU inbounded it, threw it down the court and the clock ran out.
There were good and bad stats, of course. Four factors:
MSU had an eFG% of just 42.6, which is not good, but probably was expected. On the other end, holding Wisconsin to 37 percent is fantastic. That includes the Badgers going 8-for-27 on both 2s and 3s (29.6 percent).
MSU's TO% of 18.5 percent is not bad at all, and it's even better when you take out the two Byrd had in two minutes. An OR% of 32.1 was decent against a good defensive rebounding team in Wisconsin, but allowing the Badgers to grab 38.1 percent of their misses was bad. Now, part of this was a number of airballed 3s or long rebounds that were tough. It was that kind of night.
That Badgers might have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for that darned free-throw line. Now, Wisconsin wasn't that great a FT shooting team coming in (62.4 percent), but they went 7-for-18 in this one. Most inexplicable was Jared Berggren, a 76-percent FT shooter coming in, going 2-for-8. Thank you very much. KenPom had predicted a five-point Wisconsin win, giving MSU a 28 percent chance of winning.
Izzo was fired up.
-- Branden Dawson may have had his best game as a Spartan, finishing with 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting and 13 rebounds (three offensive). He could have had a few more points if he made some close shots. It was a high volume of shots, but he was clearly the most athletic player on the court, and was also playing with the most energy. I'll take that over him disappearing, though I still think he needs to limit the jump-shots. He also went 4-for-6 at the free-throw line, which is an improvement.
-- Newly minted captain Keith Appling had his best scoring performance since the Minnesota game, finishing with 19 points on 6-for-17 shooting, six rebounds and two steals. He had just two assists, but also only one turnover. He went 3-for-9 on 2s, driving and pulling up a lot, as well as 3-for-8 from 3. Hopefully this game will turn around his shooting, as Appling really seems like a big confidence guy. He was playing with confidence Tuesday night.
-- Gary Harris was the only other Spartan to make multiple field goals, scoring six points on 2-for-3 shooting. He had a hard time getting open, and couldn't find many lanes when he drove, but did play good defense and had a key steal late. Harris also only had two rebounds, one assists and one turnover. He missed a key free throw at the end, but has been clutch in that situation before, and at least he made one!
-- Adreian Payne came back to Earth in a game that didn't suit his style. He went 1-for-5 and had just two rebounds. He did, however, have three assists and three steals, which was a little odd. Part of the reason he might have only had two rebounds was because he was trying to block shots like this.
Good job, good effort.
-- Derrick Nix struggled, but that's always the case when he plays Wisconsin. He finished with two points on 1-for-2 shooting and six rebounds in 26 minutes.
--Travis Trice took four two-pointers and zero three-pointers! He went 1-for-4, though that make was a long two.
-- Just 10 minutes for Denzel Valentine, who didn't score and had two shot attempts. I'm not totally sure why his playing time has been declining, but it's possible it was because of the confusing style Wisconsin plays.
-- As mentioned, Matt Costello didn't look completely lost like he did against Ohio State. He did allow an open 3-point look when he lost his man at the end of his shift, but, at least defensively, he looked more comfortable.
Next up: at Indiana on Sunday with these new jerseys.