If basketball in the Big Ten were a place, it might be the deepest, darkest corner of Siberia; cold, harsh, and not for the faint of heart. On Tuesday night, in a quintessential Big Ten January slugfest, the Spartans managed to rip the game from the hands of the home Badgers in the final moments to seize a high quality 69-65 win on the road.
In what was a tight game throughout, MSU found themselves down 5 late in the going, in one of the rare moments where any team held a lead of more than one possession. With 14 lead changes, and the largest lead being MSU’s 6-0 edge after hitting two three point shots to open the scoring, the entire game was tight and tense.
After the under-4 timeout, MSU came out swinging, scoring on each possession, hitting their last 8 shots, and escaping Madison with a win that should look good going forward, even without the Badgers’ Tyler Wahl in the lineup.
The turnover bug that seems to have had seemed to have disappeared this year after having its own locker at the Breslin Center over the last several years resurfaced.The Spartans turned the ball over 13 times compared to Wisconsin’s 5, including 3 in a row just before the end of game scoring barrage.
Connor Essegian had a tremendous game off the bench for the Badgers, going 3-4 from 3, and scoring 13. Steven Crowl led the scoring for Wisconsin, adding 19.
Joey Hauser scored 20 in his return trip to his home state, while Mady Sissoko led the Spartans in rebounds with 11. Interestingly, Carson Cooper saw the floor far more than Jaxon Kohler as the rotation behind Sissoko continues to evolve.
The real story on MSU’s roster though, is the performance of Hauser, AJ Hoggard and Malik Hall down the stretch. Hoggard ended up with 10 points and 8 assists, with a couple of crucial layups in the final minutes. Hauser nailed a three to give MSU the lead for the final time, and Malik Hall hit clutch free throws as the seconds ticked away in the final minutes.
For the majority of the game, it was a back and forth Big Ten slugfest that we’ve all seen a few hundred times on January nights. But when they needed to seize a game that would have been absolutely gutting to lose, Tom Izzo’s Spartans did just that., They escaped Madison with a Big Ten win that looks pretty nice on their resume for March.
The Spartans move on to prepare for Illinois, as they will face Brad Underwood’s Fighting Illini on Friday night at 9.