When No. 23 Wisconsin and No. 24 Michigan State meet in East Lansing at 7:00 tonight on ESPN, it'll be a desperate affair.
Both teams have Big Ten championship aspirations and both have already suffered setbacks in conference play. Neither can afford another to stay in the discussion.
Last time out, the Badgers (12-3, 2-1) got an important home win against Michigan. They held the Wolverines to 50 points offensively and stars Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer got 20 and 17 points respectively to lead Wisconsin back after a loss at Illinois.
Michigan State (10-5, 2-1) found a different outcome, though. The Spartans were upset in Happy Valley by Talor Battle and Penn State in one of the surprise games of this early Big Ten season. Draymond Green and Delvon Roe struggled, tallying only 12 combined points, and the Spartans were terrible from the foul line, hitting only 10-20 int the loss.
Keys to the game after the jump.
When Wisconsin Has The Ball
- Leuer has produced all season but Taylor has really gotten things going in the last couple of weeks. The junior is averaging 20 points over the course of his last four games. The Badgers should try to keep him going against Michigan State.
- Michigan State needs to get back to rebounding well in this game. The Spartans lost the battle on the boards against a smaller Penn State team the other day 40-36. That can't happen again. Tom Izzo's team has to pull down the boards on both ends to be successful.
When Michigan State Has The Ball
- Sparty needs to get Roe and Green going again. The frontcourt duo might be Michigan State's biggest advantage on Tuesday night and if they come up small, it might be a long night. Those two players need to step up for Michigan State to win.
- Wisconsin can feel free to throw bodies in there to give fouls. Until the Spartans prove they can make free throws, it's prudent for the Badgers to attack them in that area by putting them on the free throw line rather than allowing easy buckets.
Wisconsin looks like it's playing better right now, but Michigan State does its best work when its back is against the wall. Both teams know this is a key game for remaining in the Big Ten race, so look for both to be aggressive. In a game where experience in pressure situations counts, though, you've got to be on the Michigan State.