In a pivotal Sunday in Big Ten basketball, the Michigan State Spartans were forced to adjust their lineup due to the injury of point guard Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn. The combination of Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes proved to be problematic for the Spartans, and the continued emergence of Redshirt Freshman Ethan Happ helped the Badgers obtain their second win in the conference.
Let's see how the action played out.
Game of the Night: Wisconsin Badgers 77, Michigan State Spartans 76
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo was forced to break up its regular starting lineup in favor of a more youthful approach as lead guard Lourawls Nairn Jr. has been forced to the sidelines for two weeks because of a foot injury. Freshmen Matt McQuaid and Deyonta Davis moved into the starting lineup along with Eron Harris, Denzel Valentine and Matt Costello.
Entering the game 9-9 overall and 1-4 in the conference, the Badgers came out with their two best players hitting on all cylinders. Juniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes combined for 27 of the team's 41 first half points. Wisconsin capitalized on not only their two leaders stepping up against the fourth ranked team in the country, but also taking advantage of their trips to the free throw line - the Badgers shot 16-for-19 from the charity stripe. The Badgers ended the first half on a 10-0 run to take a 41-36 first half lead.
The Spartans used a duo of their own to help maintain a single digit deficit throughout the first half. West Virginia transfer Eron Harris started off quickly attacking the rim and connecting on two three pointers to obtain 12 points. Valentine started off slowly, but managed to knock down three triples to help combine for 23 of the team's 36 points at the half.
Michigan State started the second half on a 12-2 run by shooting 5-for-5 from the field. Senior big man Matt Costello used his physicality inside to obtain his tenth point and eighth rebound by the under-16 timeout.
Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig continued their sharp shooting with a pair of three pointers between them, while Redshirt Freshman Ethan Happ continued his solid play inside against Deyonta Davis. Thanks for four fouls by Michigan State in a 90 second period, Happ and Hayes were able to capitalize on free throws to help build a 62-56 lead with just under nine minutes remaining. After a back and forth tussle for a four minute stretch, the Badgers held a 68-65 lead with 5:34 left.
A 7-0 run by Michigan State allowed the Spartans to retake the lead 70-68 at the under-4 timeout, but the Badgers finished strong during the final stretch as Koenig hit two critical three pointers and assisted on the game-winning layup by Ethan Happ. Wisconsin was led by Koenig who posted a career-high of 27 points and four assists, while Hayes tallied 25 and seven rebounds and Happ continues to establish himself as the third scorer with 14 points combined with eight rebounds. The Badgers move to 10-9 and look to sustain momentum with a tilt against the Penn State Nittany Lions Thursday, January 21 at 8 p.m. EST on the Big Ten Network.
Michigan State was led by Valentine's tremendous stat line of 23 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. Forward Matt Costello notched a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Eron Harris only scored two second half points to give him 14 for the game, while guard Bryn Forbes poured in 12 off the bench. The Spartans are back in action Wednesday, January 20 as they host Nebraska at 6:30 p.m. EST on the Big Ten Network.
Iowa looked like a program set out to prove their recent hot streak was no fluke. The Hawkeyes stormed out to an 11-2 lead by the under-16 timeout.
Michigan began to comeback as they attacked the Hawkeye's 2-3 zone with excellent ball movement, screens and cuts toward the basket. Freshman Moritz Wagner served his role beautifully by setting multiple ball screens which ultimately helped in creating opportunities for cutters towards the rim. Michigan would only hold a lead once during the first half as they were up 21-20 with 7:31 remaining in the first half.
The Wolverines started off the second half connecting from the perimeter with shots from Duncan Robinson and Derrick Walton Jr. Zak Irvin was active to set up assists and get an and-one opportunity. The Wolverines were 2-for-9 from three point land in the first half and came out firing hitting three within the first four minutes of the second half.
Three point shots continued to fall in favor of the Hawkeyes, as Peter Jok and Anthony Clemmons sparked Iowa to a 60-52 lead with 9:33 remaining. Dom Uhl got into the action with a three pointer of his own which helped build the lead to 68-57 at the under-8 timeout - Gessell and Uthoff were on the bench throughout the Hawkeyes' offensive attack.
Michigan cut the lead down to 71-65 with back-to-back three pointers from Aubrey Dawkins, but Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff answered to help put away the Wolverines in the waning minutes. Iowa used a balanced scoring attack which featured four Hawkeyes in double figures. Uthoff led the way with 23 points and four rebounds. Junior guard Peter Jok was spectacular on offense with 16 points, including 4-for-6 from behind the arc. Senior Adam Woodbury tallied 12 points and six rebounds, and forward Dom Uhl notched 10 points off the bench. The Hawkeyes are back in action Thursday, January 21 at 7:00 p.m. EST as they travel to Rutgers. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
The Wolverines were without star guard/forward Caris LeVert for the third straight game, which forced others to step up in elevated roles. Junior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. led the way for Michigan with 16 points, six assists and four rebounds. Zak Irvin and Dunan Robinson each tallied 11 and reserve guard Aubrey Dawkins contributed well off the bench with 12. The Wolverines host Minnesota on Wednesday, January 20 at 8:30 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.