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Michigan State leaves Wisconsin with a victory and sole control of the Big Ten Conference

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 14 Michigan State Spartans traveled to Madison to take on the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers on Friday night.

After coming off of a loss to Northwestern at home last Saturday, and with the winner of Friday’s game taking sole control of the Big Ten Conference following Illinois’ loss to Maryland earlier in the night, the Spartans had a lot to prove with this matchup on the road. Michigan State earned an 86-74 victory over Wisconsin, and with the win on Friday night, improved its record to 6-1 in conference play and 15-3 overall. MSU is the last remaining one-loss team in conference play, and now currently sits alone in first place in the Big Ten standings.

Big news came before the game tipped-off when it was announced that Wisconsin forward Tyler Wahl was out for the contest with a lower body injury.

The first half started off extremely rocky for the Spartans. The team seemed unsettled and turnovers began to pile up early on. Wisconsin started out scoring the first eight points of the game, and it was looking bleak while the crowd in the Kohl Center roared.

But then, the tides seemed to change almost immediately following that opening stretch. With a 12-3 run, the Spartans began to assert their dominance. Stand out players for MSU included A.J. Hoggard, Malik Hall, Marcus Bingham Jr. and Max Christie during the stretch. But truly, the entire team found its groove and really became connected.

Before the buzzer sounded in the first half, after Michigan State called a quick timeout, Hall asserted his dominance one last time with a beautiful two-point-play right before halftime.

Heading into the locker rooms, the sold out crowd for the Badgers was a lot quieter than it was in the beginning. At halftime, MSU led Wisconsin 42 to 26.

In the second half, things got a bit shaky again for MSU. With both Bingham and Julius Marble getting into a tough spot with fouls, Wisconsin began to steadily dig into the Spartans’ lead. Wisconsin’s Brad Davidson began to hit just about every three-point shot he threw up, getting some kind bounces from the rim, and at one point, the Badgers were able to cut the lead to single digits.

Wisconsin would eventually cut the margin to six points, with MSU leading 58-52 with about 10 minutes left to play. Even with Davidson’s shots falling, though, the Badgers were never truly able to catch up throughout the second half, and Wisconsin began to resort to the foul game.

After the recent stretch of games where Michigan State didn’t seem to be playing up to its potential, the Spartans truly did look improved with this win on the road against a top-10 team in Wisconsin. It showed that those few days off after the loss to Northwestern were utilized well by head coach Tom Izzo and his staff.

Hall led the Spartans with 14 points off of the bench, while Christie, Hoggard and Tyson Walker each added 12 points. Johnny Davis led the Badgers with 25 points, while Davison scored 22 points.

Michigan State next has a road matchup with Illinois on Tuesday, Jan. 25. at 7 p.m. Eastern time.