It was a game of runs that had a different feel every time a commercial break ended, but Michigan State pulled it out on the back of Draymond Green in OT.
Opening the game with excellent shooting, Bo Ryan's club took an early 19-7 lead. However, by halftime, Wisconsin only led by 3, 23-20. Michigan State tied the ballgame and even took a brief lead to begin the second half. Eventually, the Badgers shot their way back into an 8 point lead with 2:30 to go. That's where the game got interesting.
The Spartans forced 3 turnovers in the last 52 seconds of the game to give themselves a fighter's chance. Korie Lucious hit one of his characteristic game-changing three pointers to tie the game at 53 and send it into overtime.
Draymond Green scored the first 8 points for the Spartans on what was a career-high 26 point day for the big man. Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin's talented guard, badly missed a three to take the lead away from Michigan State with less than ten seconds to go, leading to a State rebound and a necessary foul by Wisconsin that sealed it for the Spartans.
In what was a fantastic night of basketball for the Big10, Michigan State showed why they are never able to be counted out. After the jump: the Game Breakdown.
On a night that Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers combined for 5/23 from the field, one has to imagine that Michigan State wouldn't have a chance. During much of the first half, it didn't appear as though they did. The Spartans looked lethargic and sloppy, with a number of errant passes and abysmal shooting. Kalin Lucas, the defending Big10 Player of the Year, badly airballed a number of shots throughout the game, and looked out of place in his team's offense.
Lucas' woes didn't end on offense, however. He blew a number of coverages on Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor, who looked like a seasoned college veteran despite his team's disappointing loss. Taylor got so bold as to take a shot from the top of the key with Lucas squared up in front of him.... and nailed it. Let's get one thing straight: Jordan Taylor is making his case for Big10 honors of all kinds, and you have to respect him on both ends of the court. Taylor was the Badgers' leading scorer with 21 points.
Another huge bright spot for Wisconsin was the emergence of Keaton Nankivil's hot hands. The Badger big man was 6-8 in shooting, including 5-6 from downtown on a 17 point night. Jon Leuer had a quiet but efficient night, going 3-9 from the field for 10 points. Wisconsin was also an impressive 11-12 on free throws.
Despite a few impressive stat lines, Wisconsin showed some immaturity, however. After a solid first fifteen minutes of play, they started to allow Michigan State to rally and gain momentum. The Badgers reigned the Spartans back in early in the second half, but was not able to contain their late run. The best teams in the country are able to face their opponent's momentum, stop it, and put them away. Bo Ryan will have to address that issue if the Badgers are to expect a deep run in March.
Michigan State's rally relied on this momentum, along with a little help from Draymond Green, who ended up 8-17 shooting, including 3 three pointers. On what was an uncharacteristically disappointing night for Lucas, he finished with 17 points, but was 4-17 from the floor. Much of his point production came from the charity stripe, where he added 9 points on 12 attempts.
If Michigan State is to play up to their pre-season expectations, they will need to address their shooting woes, both from the field and on free throws. The Spartans were under 40% on field goals and 68% from the line (their season average is nearer to 65%). They will also need to correct their slow defensive starts in each half. However, teams that are able to be outplayed and still win have the hallmarks of champions, and the entire country is aware of what Tom Izzo and his squad can do come tournament time.