INDIANAPOLIS – After a sluggish start that sent Tom Izzo into a tizzy, the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans recovered nicely, earning a 65-52 victory over the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers.
Spotting the Badgers nine points in the first two minutes of the game, the Spartans went on a 20-4 run over a seven minute span – in which they went 10-10 from the field, securing a double-digit halftime lead that they would never relinquish.
The run was sparked by three consecutive Austin Thornton three-pointers, a senior whose proving to serve as an invaluable piece to this team.
“Bizarre game, but I thought we played well,” Izzo said after the game. “I never felt comfortable, but for about 30 minutes there I thought we played some of our basketball of the season.”
As the game got chippy in the middle of the second-half, the pace slowed down and the Badgers cut the lead to six, but never got closer than that. With 12:10 remaining, Tom Izzo called a timeout to set up a post-play for Draymond Green. It resulted in a basket and foul that, in hindsight, essentially sealed the game.
From there the Spartans forced Wisconsin into bad shots or no shots, going on an11-2 run and kept the Badgers at bay until the final buzzer sounded. It was Michigan State’s third win over the Badgers this season.
Leading the way for the Spartans was Mr. Everything Draymond Green, who finished with 14 points. But with five players scoring at least nine points, the Big Ten’s top seed displayed their balanced attack to get the victory.
When the Spartans are clicking, they’re turning tough defense into easy offense, and have proven to be able to play both in the half court, or in transition.
The priority is establishing an inside game in the half-court and working the ball out when needed, but today they didn’t shy away from forcing the issue in transition.
Keith Appling, who finished with 13-points, was superb in wisely selecting when to push the ball and when to call an offensive set.
The Three Headed Monster of Green, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix seemed down a man today, as Payne seeemd out of sorts – drawing plenty of ire from Izzo and his assistants.
Regardless, the win was impressive, and places the Spartans in the Big Ten Championship game for the first time since 2000.