Throughout the season, each game for the Wisconsin men's basketball team has displayed different stars. In Saturday's 77-64 victory over Michigan State, each half gave different unlikely stars a chance to shine.
During the first half, the Badgers needed all the help they could get as they fell under the Spartans spell early. After going scoreless in the first two minutes and 15 seconds and falling behind by seven, it was unlikely star number one, sophomore guard Boo Wade, who brought the team out of their slump with his layup.
"They came out very aggressive," Wade said. "They were coming off the screens hard and hitting a lot of shots. We just knew that we had to stay focused, you know, just run our offense, just stay calm and it will eventually come to us."
Thanks to Wade's lead, things started to roll for Wisconsin. Besides putting the first Badger points on the board, he helped fuel the 36-14 run that closed the half for the team and kept them in control of the game. Wade contributed seven points, six boards and three assists during the first.
Though Wade's better half was in the first, he ended up breaking three of his previous career highs with his continued sound play in the second half. His 15 total points, eight field goal attempts and six rebounds all broke previous bests.
Another unlikely star that was showcased during the first half was junior guard Clayton Hanson. On the offensive end, nothing went wrong for him as he shot a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals and 2-for-2 on free throws. At the eight-minute, fifty-three-second mark, his two from the charity stripe closed out the Badgers 13-0 run and gave Wisconsin its first lead of the game. This also marked the downfall of the Spartans as they only led once more, by two points, and were never really able to regain control of the game.
"It was about time (his shots fell)," junior guard Devin Harris said. "We know he's capable of shooting it and as far as aggressiveness, he wasn't taking shots earlier in the season but now he knows…he took the shots that he normally takes in practice and he knocked them down. Hopefully we'll get a lot more from him throughout the season."
The final star in Saturday's victory might not be called unlikely as he is commonly referred to as Wisconsin's sixth man. Zach Morley brought much-needed intensity and hustle off the bench that kept him as well as his team on top of their game in the second half. Since fellow junior forward Mike Wilkinson had a rocky performance, it was Morley's turn to shine and he did so nicely with his 13 total points, four rebounds and a career-high four steals.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo knew all about the silent weapons that Wisconsin has to let loose, but was particularly impressed with Morley's performance.
"Morley is really going to be a good player," Izzo said. "I like him. He can do a lot of things, he always makes you aware."
Though Wilkinson was off and the Badgers took an early back seat to the Spartans, Wade, Hanson and Morley ultimately gave the Badgers the necessary boost to get back into the game and eventually take control. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was excited that the trio was able to take advantage of their opportunities but was not shocked with their performances.
"In practice these guys can score, especially if they get opportunities," Ryan said. "I've never played our guys up and I've never played them down. We've got good players who are playing hard, trying to play smart and they're competitors. They're tough and I like coaching them."
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Badgers "Smash" Spartans, 77-64 (premium)