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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Draymond Green, Michigan State Edge Wisconsin in Overtime Thriller

Save for a stretch in the middle of the game and the last two minutes of regulation, No. 20 Wisconsin completely stifled the capable Michigan State offense with tough team defense and by slowing down the pace of play to near lethargic levels. But a near-complete effort wasn't good enough in the Breslin Center, as the Spartans gutted out a 64-61 win in overtime.

The Badgers opened up a 19-9 lead by the under-eight minute timeout in the first half, but the Spartans used an 11-4 run to close the first half and head to the locker room down just three. Coming out of the gate in the second half, MSU scored the first five points, opening up a two-point lead. The two teams traded baskets for a bit until Michigan State fell victim to an extended field goal drought -- it would last just over five minutes.

Give the Spartans credit for not going away the remainder of the game. But you also have to give the Badgers credit for answering the call several times. Keaton Nankivil hit a big 3-pointer with 8:18 left. Jordan Taylor hit a big three with 5:23 left and again with 4:10 remaining.

Those two were the stars for the Badgers, as Nankivil scored 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting (5-of-6 from three) and Taylor scored 21 while pulling down six rebounds.

But Michigan State just kept hanging around and finally got the chance to tie it after a furious run. A pair of Taylor free throws made it a nine-point lead for Wisconsin with 2:39 left. Michigan State got a Draymond Green three, two Kalin Lucas free throws and an emphatic Keith Appling dunk to cut the lead to three. After causing a turnover, Korie Lucious nailed a cool, game-tying 3-pointer from the corner -- in front of his MSU bench.

The Spartans followed that with a great defensive effort, causing a shot-clock violation with 12 seconds remaining. A Kalin Lucas drive appeared destined for a Spartans game-winning layup, but Nankivil came from behind and blocked the shot off the backboard -- sending the game to overtime, tied at 53-53.

Overtime was more of the same, as the two teams traded blows. Wisconsin trailed by one with 20.8 seconds left, but Jordan Taylor was forced to get off a contested jumper and it bounced off to the right. Lucas secured the rebound, was fouled and hit two free throws, giving the Spartans the 64-61 lead with 2.2 seconds left. A desperation 3-pointer from Taylor fell just short.

The win meant Tom Izzo upped his record to just 6-12 against Bo Ryan.            

How it Was Won: Green would not let his Spartans be denied. Despite a slow start that saw him score just two points through the first 18:51 of the game (on 1-of-5 shooting), the junior forward ended with 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He hit some huge threes and scored the Spartans' first eight points in overtime.

How It Was Lost: Several reasons. Not only did the Badgers stop making timely shots and start committing turnovers, but star forward Jon Leuer was handcuffed by Delvon Roe. Leuer came in averaging 19.3 points and shooting 48 percent from the floor. Tuesday night, he made just 3-of-9 shots and scored 10 points. Another dagger for the Badgers was when Taylor missed the team's only free throw of the game -- with 59 seconds left and the game tied.

Where to Go From Here: Michigan State (11-5, 3-1) can breathe much easier, erasing the memory of the horrible loss to Penn State and garnering a quality win. This may be exactly what the Spartans need to jumpstart the team after an extended lackluster start to a season that brought national championship expectations.

Wisconsin (12-4, 2-2) simply needs to regroup before hosting No. 16 Illinois Saturday. You don't necessary want to lose at Michigan State, but it's not exactly a rare occurrence for opposing teams, either. Just as long as the manner of the loss isn't carried over, the Badgers will be just fine.

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