Losing Touch in the Clutch

No.20 Wisconsin had developed a reputation for being sound fundamentally throughout conference games and remarkably efficient at closing games. The Badgers lost control of both of those factors Tuesday and endured a self-inflicted 64-61 overtime defeat to Michigan State in East Lansing.

The Badgers saw this script two years ago.

Firmly in control in a raucous Breslin Center, Wisconsin was sloppy and handcuffed in the final 10 minutes as the Spartans closed the game on a 32-9 run to emerge victorious with a 61-50 win, snapping UW's five-game winning streak and its four game winning streak over the Spartans.

They weren't helpless this time. Just careless and sloppy.

No.20 Wisconsin led by 12 points in the first half and nine points with 2 minutes, 39 seconds remaining, but uncharacteristic carelessness and poor shooting allowed Michigan State to claw back into the game, a game it eventually took control of in overtime to win 64-61 in front of 14,797 rowdy fans at the Breslin Center Tuesday.

The pride of Wisconsin (12-4, 2-2 Big Ten) the last few seasons has been taking care of the basketball. Leading the nation for the second straight season in fewest turnovers per game (8.1 per game), Wisconsin had turned the ball over just 13 times in its first three conference games, an average of 4.3 per contest.

They nearly equaled that average over the final minute.

The Badgers came up on empty on their final five possessions of the game, allowing the Spartans to close the game on a 9-0 run to force overtime. Worse yet, the empty possessions were the result of poor ball handling.

It started with senior Jon Leuer, who had an all-points bulletin filed after going missing in the second half, being stripped at midcourt that led to Keith Appling's uncontested dunk to cut the lead to 53-50.

On the ensuing possession, Rob Wilson, who got his first significant minutes this season in a close contest, bobbled a perfectly clean inbounds pass from Jarmusz out of bounds, and Milwaukee-native Korie Lucious hit a three-pointer from the elbow, his only bucket, to tie the game.

"We knew coming in that we were playing a team that you had to beat," Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said. "They weren't going to beat themselves."

Wilson also made the ill-advised decision to challenge Green with a driving layup. With Green camped under the basket and the Badgers up six with 1:39 left, Wilson was denied after he tried a double-pump layup with 27 seconds left on the shot clock.

Afterward, Bo Ryan stuck to his usual routine of not saying anything negatively publicly about his players, but his interactions toward Wilson in the huddle and his carefully crafted words signaled a frustrated UW coach with his reserve junior guard.

"We made some mistakes," Ryan said. "The thing is, you can't turn the ball over and you can't take bad shots."

Wisconsin appeared fortunate the game didn't end in regulation. After Tim Jarmusz air balled a three-point attempt with 12 seconds left and the shot clock running down, the Badgers third turnover in a 56 second span, senior guard Kalin Lucas (17 points had a clear alley to the basket, but senior guard Keaton Nankivil stayed with the play to pin his shot against the backboard.

Nankivil had a monster performance with 17 points, 5-for-6 from three-point range, four rebounds and a team-best three blocks and three steals, but could only do so much when it came to Spartans junior Draymond Green.

With Michigan State (11-5, 3-1) having all the momentum and carrying it into overtime, Green scored the Spartans first eight points in overtime, including a free throw that put the Spartans ahead 61-60 with 1:16 left, as he finished with a career-high 26 points.

Just like at the end of regulation, Wisconsin missed its chances to retake control of the game. Taylor missed UW's first free throw at 58 seconds in overtime, a result that left the game tied at 61 instead of giving the Badgers a one-point advantage.

One the very next possession, Nankivil picked up his fifth foul, forcing Wilson to check back in. After Lucas went 1-for-2 from the line to put the Spartans back in front, Taylor missed a step back two pointer off the right corner of the iron. Lucas grabbed the rebound, was fouled, made both foul shots and Taylor's hail-mary heave from midcourt fell short.

Taylor led Wisconsin with 21 points and seven rebounds. Although he shot 8-for-20 from the field, Taylor neutralized Lucas, the conference's preseason player of the year, from the floor, holding the senior point guard to just 4-for-17 shooting and 0-for-3 from the perimeter. Lucas finished with 17 points, nine coming from the free throw line.

"Jordan Taylor is just so physical and has so much heart," Ryan said. "We just need to make that contagious. We need to get that to other guys."

The most peculiar stat belonged to senior Jon Leuer. Although nearly finishing with a double-double (10 points, 7 rebounds), Leuer, who missed a day of practice last week due to illness, attempted just nine shots and none over the last 13:52 of game time.

Not including the opening tip of overtime, Leuer touched the ball just once after receiving a pass on the perimeter, as Wisconsin shot 38.2 percent (21 of 55) from the floor. The Badgers are not 1-3 in games when they shoot less than 40 percent and have lost twice this season (after being 22-0 last season) when leading or tied with four minutes remaining in regulation.

Wisconsin led by as many as 12 (19-7) early after Nankivil had a mini takeover. In 36 seconds, the senior grabbed a rebound, steal and scored five points on two possessions, the second of which was a three-pointer from the top of the key that forced a Spartans' timeout.

The lead dwindled, however, when Ryan removed Taylor from the game with just over four minutes remaining in the half. Taylor started 2-for-7 shooting, and the Badgers went cold without him in the lineup, missing their final five shots over the final 5:32 of the half.

Wisconsin held Michigan State to 20 points, its lowest first half of the season, but the Spartans utilize an 11-5 run to start the second half to get right back in the game.

"We knew (there) was going to be some spurts," Ryan said. "Unfortunately, we didn't have that one extra one at the end of regulation that we needed.

"We hit some shots and they were tough shots. They had the one extra possession to put us away."


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