Coming out of the 12 minute media timeout in the second half down 54-50, Wisconsin couldn’t find a way to continue cutting into Michigan State’s lead, a missed opportunity by failing to feed the low post. The first offensive possession for Wisconsin out of the timeout resulted in a long field goal miss by D'Mitrik Trice and a 3-point make in transition for Michigan State at the other end. Bronson Koenig missed a 3-pointer on the next possession and once again the Spartans made Wisconsin pay with Kenny Goins driving to the lane for a layup to put UW down nine.
Wisconsin struggled to recover from those two missed shots, never getting closer than six points the rest of the way. After the 12 minute timeout, Wisconsin shot 7-for-21 (33.3 percent) to bring its game shooting percentage down to 28-for-65 (43.1 percent) from the field and 5-for-18 (27.8 percent) from three.
Wisconsin had success on offense when it found a way to get the ball in the paint. UW finished with 38 points inside but got away from that formula at times in the second half, which allowed Michigan State to take control of the game. Michigan State was able to hold Ethan Happ to eight points on 4-for-10 shooting. Nigel Hayes (22 points, 11 rebounds) was able to pick up some of the slack down low by either generating a quality look for himself around the rim or passing to an open teammate. Hayes finished the game with four assists, which led the team, but he missed 13 shots.
Hayes found ways of drawing fouls against Michigan State when he got the ball in the post but was horrendous at the free throw line, going just 4-for-12. Hayes wasn’t alone in his free throw struggles, as Wisconsin finished the game 13-for-25 (52 percent) from the line, including the front end of three bonus situations, and played a big part in the loss.
After going scoreless in the loss to Ohio State, Zak Showalter finished with 15 points and went 3-for-4 from 3-point range. Unfortunately Koenig came back down to earth after scoring 27 points against the Buckeyes, finishing with 17 points on 5-for-15 from the field and 1-for-9 from the perimeter.
Wisconsin was active on the offensive glass and turned 13 offensive rebounds into 18 points. Hayes and Happ each had success on collecting off of Wisconsin’s missed shots, as the two finished with six and five offensive rebounds, respectively.
For a second consecutive game the defense struggled to prevent a home team from settling into a rhythm early. Wisconsin was unable to prevent Michigan State from pounding the ball inside, resulting in 36 points in the lane for the Spartans and having no answer for either Nick Ward (22 points, nine rebounds) or Miles Bridges (17 points, seven rebounds). Not to mention the Spartans were able to get production from its bench with Matt McQuaid and Cassius Winston, who had 15 and 11 points, respectively. Overall Michigan State shot 28-for-60 (46.7 percent) from the field.
Ward proved to be too much for Happ after being able to consistently generate an offensive rebound off a missed shot, allowing him to grab six of the Spartans’ 11 offensive rebounds. Ward only played 19 minutes due to foul trouble, but his effectiveness on the floor created bountiful opportunities within the offense.
When the Badgers were able to contain Ward, Wisconsin allowed Bridges and McQuaid to hurt them. Hayes held Bridges to 4-for-11 from the field but there were instances where Bridges was able to attempt an uncontested three. Michigan State finished the game 7-for-17 (41.2 percent) from three.
Like Bridges, McQuaid hurt Wisconsin in a multitude of ways, moving effectively without the ball to find the open shot on the floor and beat his defender off the dribble to drive to the line. His ability to get separation helped him go 5-for-9 from the field.
Due to how effective the Spartans shot the ball in the second half there weren’t many instances for them to collect offensive rebounds. Michigan State finished with 10 second-chance points but won the rebounding battle 42-to-38.
Michigan State has had trouble with turnovers in conference play, but Wisconsin forced only 11 Sunday, eight coming off of steals. Five different players for Wisconsin had a steal, including three by Showalter, that turned into 11 points.
Shooting the basketball poorly in the first half has hurt Wisconsin as of late but the Badgers were able to generate an offensive rhythm over the first 20 minutes that kept them in the game. Down 34-21 with 6:40 to go in the first half, the Badgers went on a 16-4 run – shooting 7-for-13 (53.8 percent) from the field over that stretch – to trail by one at halftime.
It was an encouraging finish, especially considering Wisconsin had shot 50 percent (33-for-66) from the field in the second half over the last two games. It turned out to be false hope, as the Badgers went 13-for-34 (38.2 percent) from the field and 1-for-9 (11.1 percent) from three in the final 20 minutes.
Koenig led Wisconsin in scoring over the second half with 15 points but the Spartans did a good job of keeping him in check and stringing together successful possessions. Koenig went 1-for-3 from the field in the first half and 4-for-12 over the last 20 minutes, but his first made field goal in the second half didn’t come until the 7:20 mark. Koenig’s next made field goal was a three that came with 4:07 left, which cut Michigan State’s lead to six. Koenig didn’t start to aggressively look for his shot until late in the game, as eight of his 12 shots came over the last four minutes when Wisconsin was trying to make one last push to get back in the game.
Wisconsin had its chances of potentially winning the game with its ability to draw fouls against Ward and Bridges, as both finished the game with four fouls. But with those two out of the game, Wisconsin couldn’t find a way of capitalizing with the abundance of missed free throws that affected the course of the game, preventing them from staying within two or three possessions.
Wisconsin bench delivered next to nothing, as five players delivered 10 points on seven shots and four free throw attempts. With Vitto Brown continuing to deliver little offense (two points on five shots), UW needs more from its frontcourt reserves.
Wisconsin committed only eight turnovers that led to just nine Michigan State points, but there were instances where Wisconsin couldn’t effectively get into its transition defense, allowing the Spartans easy looks at the rim.
Game MVP: Zak Showalter. Showalter only scored four points in the second half but his 11 points in the first half kept Wisconsin in the game, as he went 4-for-4 from the field including 3-for-3 from three. Showalter also finished the game with one rebound, two turnovers and led the team with three steals.