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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wisconsin Delivers A Decisive First Loss

Michigan State's dreams of an undefeated Big Ten campaign were dashed convincingly by the hot-shooting Wisconsin Badgers, 67-49, at the Kohl Center Tuesday night. For the moment, Wisconsin (17-5, 7-3) has gained sole possession of second place in the Big Ten conference race.

The keys to the game were evident. I counted four of them. Wisconsin got out to a big early lead, shot well, dominated the turnover battle and limited MSU's second chances.

The Badgers jumped all over the fifth-ranked Spartans right from the outset, perhaps due to Greg Gard's preparation that Bo Ryan gushed about in his legendary post-game interview with Erin Andrews (those facial expressions!). It was crucial that the team was able to maintain the early energy and a nice 8-1 cushion.

Keep in mind that Michigan State (19-4,9-1) seemed to be hitting everything in sight at this point also. The Spartans were not punch drunk. However, when MSU did miss, a Badger was there to clean the glass. Wisconsin refused to falter despite Trevon Hughes sitting with early foul trouble. The Badgers stayed aggressive and extended the early lead to 34-17, finally carrying a 15-point lead into the break. [box score]

I was completely wrong about Jason Bohannon in my game preview. Not only did he break out of a recent slump with a game-high 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting, but he bottled up Chris Allen on defense. Quite a performance for J-Bo, hitting step backs, treys and just being opportunistic.

Joining Bohannon in playing all 40 minutes was sophomore Jordan Taylor. Can you believe Bo gets this kid for two more full seasons? Hughes on the bench in the first half and forcing shots early in the second half, Taylor never skipped a beat. He acts like he already knows it's his team. Taylor added 4 rebounds and 4 assists to his 17 points, turning the ball over only once.

Props to Ryan Evans for grabbing some big rebounds and Keaton Nankivil for playing good position defense. But Rob Wilson was impressive too, hitting all five of his shots for 10 points. He was aggressive when posting up and looked comfortable doing it. Contributions from all angles basically broke Michigan State's spirit. Wisconsin's timely shots never gave the Spartans a chance to come up for air.

When you add in the unfortunate injury to Kalin Lucas, the Spartans never really had a prayer. The Badgers shot over 50% from the floor. While four Badgers scored in double figures, it took a late flurry for the first Spartan (Durrell Summers) to crack that same barrier. Oddly, Korie Lucious indicated that the team saw the writing on the wall before the game:

"In practice, we just haven't been bringing it like we should have," Lucious said. "We haven't had the energy like we should have and Coach (Izzo) has been telling us that for the last couple days."

Michigan State eventually padded their rebounding totals (31 total, 11 offensive) in part because of their own turnovers (13). They were able to corral nearly 38% of their own misses, far above the lofty standard Wisconsin usually surrenders. That statistic did not translate into any momentum whatsoever though.

It should also be noted that once Hughes got his head back into the game, he made several great passes and paced Wisconsin with 7 assists against only one turnover. The team had only five turnovers in all.

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