When it was announced that Keith Appling would not play because of his wrist injury, it seemed like that would be an x-factor in the noon game at the Kohl Center. I was wrong. Replacement Travis Trice did more than an adequate job keeping the Spartans in the game, scoring 13 points on 56% shooting, coupled with zero turnovers. The real storyline of the game was Gary Harris' inability to make a shot and Adreian Payne's valiant efforts to keep Michigan State in the game.
The first half started off with Michigan State playing good basketball. They were having a bit of foul trouble, but at the 6:22 mark they were up 23-17 and had forced Wisconsin to commit eight turnovers (MSU had only two). From that point on, the first half was a disaster. For the last six minutes of the half, MSU committed four turnovers and scored zero points, while Wisconsin had no turnovers and 11 unanswered points. There was a point in the first half where the Spartans could not get the ball in transition and continued to settle for tough mid range jumpers. The score at the half was 28-22 in Wisconsin's favor, and they had all the momentum.
The second half was a different story, as MSU came out firing on all cylinders. They scored 11 points in the first four minutes of the half while holding Wisconsin to five. After that, though, the Spartans returned to their first half form and started settling for jumpers while Wisconsin continued to attack. It seemed like the team was in a constant loop. Adreian Payne would lead the team within three points of Wisconsin, and then the momentum of the game would swing back the other way with a big Wisconsin play to put them up by five or more points.
Down the stretch, Adreian Payne was helped out by Trice, who had stepped up with a couple great plays including a clutch three to put MSU within three at the 1:44 mark in the second half, making it 55-52 Wisconsin. After a Payne made free throw putting the team within two, making it look like MSU had a chance, Wisconsin took a commanding lead again after a Wisconsin high screen confused Matt Costello, giving Frank Kaminsky a wide open three-pointer. The score was 58-53 Wisconsin with 30 seconds left, and MSU needed some heroics to get back in the game. On the ensuing possession, Gary Harris, who was 2-19 at the time, hit a huge jumper (that was originally called a three-pointer before being reviewed and changed to a two-pointer) to make the game 58-55 with 24 seconds left. On the Wisconsin inbound, MSU fouled Wisconsin's best free throw shooter, Ben Brust. In some small miracle, he missed his free throw.
Izzo called a timeout to set up a play to try and tie the game. Coming out of the timeout, Izzo ran a play to Adreian Payne, who hit a clutch three over a falling Wisconsin defender to tie up the game at 58 with 12 seconds left. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan had one chance to draw up a play for Wisconsin, and he gave the ball to Traevon Jackson, the notorious Badger who is known for hitting game-winners, and up until this point, had a quiet game. Izzo put Gary Harris on Jackson, who couldn't stop him as Jackson hit a beautiful mid range jumper over Harrs to with two seconds left to put Wisconsin up 50-68. In one last heave of hope, Travis Trice came a couple inches away from hitting a halfcourt shot to win the game for Michigan State. Wisconsin had prevailed, 60-58.
For how bad the Spartans played, they were lucky the game was even this close.
•Gary Harris, the best scorer on the team, shot 3-20 from the field (15%) — and two of his three buckets came from breakaway dunks.
•Adreian Payne finished with 24 points, including some clutch shots and monster drives to the basket. He singlehandedly kept MSU in the game when Wisconsin was about to pull away.
•Travis Trice finished with 13 points and shot great from the field, especially from three-point range (60% from beyond the arc). His defense could have used a little work, but he made the loss of Keith Appling look a lot less bad than it could have been.
•Alvin Ellis had a couple great plays in transition in the first half, but was very quiet in the second half.
•Matt Costello seemed to be a non factor on offense, but overall had a pretty good defensive game, though it was overshadowed by his fatal error: getting caught up on the high screen and letting Kaminsky knock down a wide open three with 30 seconds left.
•Denzel Valentine was quiet on both ends of the floor today. He had nine rebounds, but he was part of MSU's first half collapse, shooting several shots from long two-point range early in the shot clock.
Both teams put up comparable numbers in the rebounding and turnover departments, but Wisconsin had 20 free throws as opposed to Michigan State's nine. If anything was the deciding factor of the game, it was probably that.
Considering that Michigan State had two of its five starters out for the game and Gary Harris played possibly the worst game of his collegiate career, this game could have gone much, much worse. Was it a victory? No. But there are a lot of positives one could take from this game.