Breakdown: No.9 Michigan State at Wisconsin

The numbers don't favor Wisconsin, having lost three in a row and facing a Michigan State program who have won the last five games in the series. But the ninth-ranked Spartans are beaten up with injuries and UW is favored by 3.5 points for Sunday's game. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup.

No.9 Michigan State (20-3, 9-1 Big Ten) at Wisconsin (18-5, 5-5 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Sunday, February 9, 12 p.m. Central

Arena –Kohl Center (17,249)

Television -CBS (Ian Eagle and Greg Anthony)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Michigan State leads 74-60 (Wisconsin leads 43-24 in Madison)

Last Meeting - Michigan State won, 58-43, on March 7, 2013 in East Lansing, Mich.

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 13.3 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 11.0 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 13.7 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 8.7 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 12.4 ppg)

Off the Bench

10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 7.5 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 2.8 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.3 ppg)

Michigan State Probable Starters

10 Matt Costello (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 4.6 ppg)

14 Gary Harris (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 18.2 ppg)

20 Travis Trice (6-0 Junior Guard, 6.6 ppg)

30 Kenny Kaminski (6-8 Freshman Forward, 6.1 ppg)

45 Denzel Valentine (6-5 Sophomore Guard, 7.8 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 Alvin Ellis (6-4 Freshman Guard, 2.2 ppg)

5 Adreian Payne (6-10 Senior Forward, 15.9 ppg)

11 Keith Appling (6-1 Senior Guard, 15.0 ppg)

Last Time Out

This was the Wisconsin basketball fans had become used to over the first two months of the season.

Shooting the basketball efficiently from all parts of the court, balanced scoring with four players in double figures and an aggressive defensive effort, the Badgers got back to their brand of basketball in a 75-63 victory over Illinois at the State Farm Center Tuesday night.

Sam Dekker and Ben Brust each had 16, while Traevon Jackson and Nigel Hayes added 14 to help Wisconsin (18-5, 5-5 Big Ten) shoot 47.8 percent overall, 43.5 percent from 3-point range and 80.5 percent from the free throw line. As a result, the Badgers won their seventh straight over Illinois – the longest such streak in UW history – and won their third straight at Illinois since the 1906-08 season.

No matter how it was presented to them, this was a "get well" win after a difficult stretch in which it lost five of six.

Those adverse moments came in the second half when the Badgers went through one of their scoring swoons. Making only three field goals during an 11-minute stretch in the second half, Wisconsin had a 10-point lead get whittled down to as little as two points on a stretch filled with turnovers and missed jumpers.

Unlike the previous games, however, Wisconsin found a way to close. UW scored on six straight possessions to build a 63-55 lead with 3:37 left, capped with a give-and-go play between Dekker and Brust, a deep Josh Gasser 3-pointer and a 3-pointer from Dekker from the top of the key.

UW closed the game scoring at least one point on 12 of its final 14 possessions, getting big lifts from struggling plays. In addition to Dekker's 3-pointer from the top of the key, Dekker hit another one from the left elbow to make the score 66-57. On a 2-for-20 stretch before making his first 3-pointer in the first half, Dekker's four threes tied a career high.

Wisconsin was 10 of 23 from 3-point range compared to 4-for-10 from Illinois.

"I could tell guys were feeling good, especially Sam," said Hayes. "Sam knows he's a shooter just like the rest of the guys and the shots haven't been falling for him. When all the threes were going in, especially late in the game in crunch time and you looked at Sam. He's like, ‘yeah, we're back.'"

Junior Traevon Jackson was another struggling UW player who bounced back, finishing with 14 points, 5 of 7 on free throws, seven rebounds, three assists and one turnover. UW out rebounded Illinois 31-25 and got a combined 19 rebounds from three guards, including a team-high eight from Gasser.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Last Meeting

EAST LANSING, Mich. - For the second time in five days Wisconsin had an opportunity to move within one game of first place in the Big Ten. With a chance to play for a conference title Sunday, Wisconsin, again, KO'ed itself in the ugliest of fashions.

In what amounted to a Big Ten title elimination game, No.22 Wisconsin's inability to score the basket and secure loose rebounds sent them back home with a 58-43 loss to No.10 Michigan State in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicated.

"Frustration, disappointment, everything like that," said senior forward Jared Berggren, who won at every Big Ten arena except Michigan State in his career. "It sucks. There's nothing we can do about it now, but try to learn from our mistakes and move forward."

Figuring out how to make a few buckets will be the place to start. Shooting 29.6 percent in the second half of Sunday's home loss to Purdue, the hangover carried over for Wisconsin. Making seven field goals in the first half and eight in the second half, the Badgers finished 15-for-51 from the floor, shooting 29.4 percent that was a season low.

Just like when senior forward Ryan Evans was questioned if his free throw problems were becoming a mental issue, the Badgers' shooting woes are drawing similar questions after shooting less than 33.3 percent in three straight halves.

But as bad as its offense, UW's post defense was equally sporadic. Although only out rebounded by two, Michigan State's first five buckets told the game's entire story. Generating 20 points in the paint in the team's first meeting, the Spartans controlled the paint and bruised the Badgers on second chance points.

Michigan State turned 16 offensive rebounds into 11 second-chance points, as junior guard Keith Appling scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half to help the Spartans build a lead that swelled to 23.

"That killed us, too," said Berggren.

The Spartans' first bucket from the perimeter was an Appling 3-pointer, which was set up after Michigan State corralled two offensive rebounds. Ryan was so irritated that he benched his starters in favor of Evan Anderson and Zach Bohannon, who have combined to play 32 minutes in conference play.

"We replaced them because they must have been tired," said Ryan. "That's my reasoning."

It got worse. After Berggren scored the opening bucket of the second half, Michigan State went on a 16-0 run that was more of the same: attacking the post, offensive rebound put backs and a lack of response from Wisconsin, which went 0-for-12 from the field during that stretch. Wisconsin finished with more turnovers (17) than field goals (15).

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Series Notes

UW is 13-11 against the Spartans under Bo Ryan, but Michigan State has won 5 in a row in the series.

? Ryan's teams won their first 8 home games against Michigan State, but the Spartans have won in each of their last two visits to Madison. With 2 wins, MSU is 1 of just 4 Big Ten teams with multiple victories at the Kohl Center in the Ryan era.

Including Sunday's match-up, at least one team has been ranked in 23 of the last 24 meetings.

? Bo Ryan (.696) and MSU head coach Tom Izzo (.692) currently rank 3rd and 4th, respectively in career Big Ten win percentage.

Izzo (19 years) and Ryan (13 years) are the 2 longest-tenured coaches in the Big Ten. Izzo (216) and Ryan (149) also rank 1-2 in career Big Ten wins among active coaches. Overall, Izzo ranks 4th on the Big Ten's all-time list and Ryan ranks 12th.

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin is 8-2 away from home this year, going a perfect 3-0 in neutral games and 5-2 in true road venues. Among Big Ten teams, only Michigan State has more road wins (6) and total wins away from home (10).

Nigel Hayes is establishing himself as one of the elite freshmen in the Big Ten, averaging 10.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg and .581 FG% during conference play. He also has a team-high 56 FTAs in league play.

The Badgers are 33-12 (.733) at home under Bo Ryan against AP Top-25 teams. That includes a sparkling 21-6 mark against teams ranked in the top 15.

Under Bo Ryan, Wisconsin is 9-5 at the Kohl Center against AP top-10 teams. That includes wins over No. 7 MSU in 2006 and No. 5 MSU in 2010.

Michigan State Notes

Harris gets a lot of notoriety for his scoring, as he leads the Big Ten (18.2 ppg). But what makes him special is his ability to be a difference maker on both ends of the court, leading the Spartans with 40 steals, ranking fourth in the conference (2.0 spg).

Valentine has scored in double figures in five of the last six games, averaging 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds.

Michigan State is on pace to shatter the mark for fewest turnovers during the Tom Izzo era. MSU is currently averaging 11.3 turnovers. The previous low during the Izzo era was 13.0 in 2011-12. The Spartans are 12-2 when committing fewer turnovers than their opponent.

Michigan State has used 12 different starting lineups in the last 18 games, and a total of 13 on the season. A large part of the rotating door has been the various injuries/illnesses to strike the Spartans. In fact, MSU's five primary starters (Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Branden Dawson, Adreian Payne, and Matt Costello) have all played in just 10 of 23 games.

Prediction

Sam Dekker isn't going to argue with the fact that losing Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans created a major void in Wisconsin's front court. Dekker also wasn't going to deny that he was still a newbie when it comes to playing with his back to the basket.

A premier high school player nationally playing in the smallest division in Wisconsin high school basketball, Dekker didn't start learning how to play in the low post until roughly five years ago. When he did play in the post, he very rarely went up against someone his size, and nowhere near his talent level.

It's a reason why Dekker admits he played too much on the perimeter last season, and why the coaches made an emphatic statement to him over the summer to get into the paint more and unleash some aggressiveness.

"Get to the hoop and use my length and my size as much as I can," said Dekker of the message. "I'm skilled enough to do that inside … When I can put those things together in a complete post game, which I am nowhere close to having, I'll be a much better player."

Dekker has tried to post up in every simulation drill Wisconsin runs in practice, getting that confidence in his game. Sometimes it works. Dekker still leads Wisconsin in scoring and rebounding, having scored in double figures in all but four games this season. Sometimes it doesn't, like Dekker's bizarre game against Ohio State when he scored a season-low four points, playing a season-low 19 minutes and was having his toughness questioned.

Dekker bounced back Tuesday with 16 points at Illinois, including a number of clutch 3-pointers, but the sophomore isn't the only one under the microscope. Frank Kaminsky is averaging 10.1 points per game in Big Ten play, his overall shooting mark of 48.6 percent is second among the eight-player rotation and he scored a school record 43 points in November.

Kaminsky has been missing in action the last three games, however. Over that stretch, Kaminsky has made just 4 of 16 field-goal attempts and scored a combined 18 points. He is only 2 of his last 12 from 3-point range and attempted only one shot at Illinois Tuesday.

With Dekker's inconsistencies and Kaminsky battling some confidence problems, Wisconsin is relying on true freshman Nigel Hayes – averaging 15.5 points the last two games – to carry the load. Against a physical team like Michigan State, UW won't be able to rely just on Hayes.

Although Payne has been slowed because of injuries, Michigan State are in first place in the Big Ten and have survived thanks to Kaminski (who UW offered) shooting .510 (26-51) from 3-point range and Costello has totaled 19 blocks (1.9 bpg) in 10 conference games, ranking fifth in the Big Ten.

Despite all the injuries, in the 15 games since the Spartans' first loss of the season, MSU is holding its opponents to 63.1 points and a .379 field-goal percentage, including .309 from 3-point range. That doesn't bode well for a UW team struggling to score consistently over the past month and a team that has averaged 57.5 over the last 15 games against the Spartans.

If Wisconsin wants to win, it needs to bring the aggressiveness in the low post, particularly from Dekker. The Badgers need the Dekker who has an edge to him. Wisconsin also needs to dig deep for some defense. UW has held the Spartans below 70 points in each of the last 15 meetings. MSU has averaged 57.6 points per game over that span, but those were against better defensive-driven teams than the one UW has.

The Illinois win was nice, but it masks problems that Wisconsin still has. Michigan State has been the tougher team than the Badgers over the last five meetings, UW has been letting teams push them around and the Kohl Center's dominance isn't what it once was. Even with MSU hindered, I think the Spartans pull out a six-point win.

Worgull's Record: 16-7

Points off Prediction: 211 (9.2 per game)


Badger Nation Top Stories