Earlier this week, the Big Ten Conference announced that the Wisconsin Badgers would be without one of their star players in Guard Brad Davison, who would be suspended for one game. In addition, Guard Kobe King announced he was leaving the program at Wisconsin, meaning he too would be out for Saturday’s game vs. the Spartans. Without two of their best players, how could Wisconsin possibly upset the Spartans?
The first half of Saturday’s match up gave us the answer. After yet another slow start on the road for the Spartans, the Badgers shot lights out. As a team, they shot 58% in the first half, taking a 43-27 lead at halftime.
It was the 3rd time in 3 weeks the Spartans found themselves down big on the road. Shooting struggles started early and plagued the Spartans for much of the 1st half. At halftime, they had shot 33% from the field, and 30% from 3 point range. Many Spartan fans found themselves tuning out after what was seen in the first half, and after the previous 2 times this happened on the road, it looked grim for the Spartans.
Coming out of the locker room after halftime, the Spartans went on a 14-0 run early led by Cassius Winston and Rocket Watts to cut the deficit down to single digits for the first time since early in the 1st half. It was a promising sight, but ultimately the Spartans fell late, losing 64-63.
Despite the many woes the Spartans faced throughout Saturday’s game, they never quit. Rocket Watts had one of his best games this season, with 16 points off of 6-13 (4-10 3 pt.) shooting. Watts was a major contributor for the Spartans on Saturday, and he continues to improve as a scoring threat this season.
Cassius Winston continued to impress. When the two teams met in East Lansing, Winston had 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Saturday, Winston finished with 23 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists on 9-19 (3-5 3 pt.) shooting. Winston’s effort contributed greatly to the Spartans’ comeback attempt, and moving forward, his play will likely be the deciding factor in these games.
The biggest issue facing the Spartans is inconsistency. On Wednesday vs. Northwestern, the Spartans locked down the Wildcats on their way to a 29 point blowout in East Lansing. In that game, the Spartans had a few scoring droughts, but ultimately pulled it together. On Saturday, the Spartans played, as Coach Tom Izzo put it, “maybe the worst half of defensive basketball.” Moving forward, establishing consistency must be a priority for the Spartans.
The Spartans host No. 24 Penn State on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on BTN.