Men's basketball notes: Wilkinson tops Davis

Badger big man makes plays down the stretch; Badgers win free-throw battle; Taylor steps up

MADISON – It was not how Wisconsin started that mattered Sunday, but ultimately how the Badgers finished in their thrilling 62-59 win over Michigan State Sunday.

And the same can be said for UW senior forward Mike Wilkinson and his matchup with MSU junior center Paul Davis.

From the opening tip to the final seconds, the two battled each other—with Davis seemingly carrying the upper hand for most of the game.

But with the game on the line, it was Wilkinson that made the decisive move against Davis, won the game within the game and helped his team pull off the miraculous victory.

Up by one with just under a minute to go, the Spartans were on the offensive looking to add to their lead when they fed Davis down low. Matched up 1-on-1 with Wilkinson as he was much of the night, Davis received the pass from the perimeter, dribbled twice, spun and missed after Wilkinson altered his shot.

"He wanted to go right and we were trying to not let him catch the ball, but once he caught it, he likes that right hand," Wilkinson said. "I just tried to make him go to his left and he spun left, shot faked and I'm not going to block any shots, I can't jump very well, but he missed and he hadn't missed very many of those all night."

Despite Wilkinson's postgame comment he was credited with a blocked shot, his second of the game, after getting a piece of Davis' attempt.

It was one of Davis' six missed shots on the night (he was 9 of 15), but obviously the most crucial.

After missing his first shot of the game, Davis came back to connect on his next two attempts, both over UW senior Andreas Helmigk. As Helmigk came in to spell Wilkinson a couple minutes, it allowed Davis just enough time to get going offensively. The Spartans' junior finished the first half with nine points on 4 of 7 shooting and carried the strong play into the second half as well.

Davis scored four of Michigan State's first eight points after halftime, and his bucket with 2:49 left to play gave the Spartans their largest lead of the game 59-51. However it was the last points the Spartans would score on the night.

Davis finished the contest with a game-high 20 points, and appeared to be able to score at will over Wilkinson at times throughout the game, but was unable to connect down stretch. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1 from the free throw line and also his final two field goal attempts in the final two minutes.

"It looked like he had his way, but also we made every touch tough," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "All you can do is hope that you just keep wearing on a player defensively and maybe a little further out. On that turnaround jumper, instead of 8 feet, maybe the next time it's 10 feet. That's all we can do with great players like that. It's try and get them out of their comfort zone, try to get some help. If they like one side of the floor, maybe get them to the other side of the floor."

And that's exactly what Wilkinson did to Davis. He got him to spin away from his comfort zone and forced a tough shot, giving the Badgers the stop they needed to grab the lead late.

Charity reversal

Unlike Davis, Wilkinson and the rest of the Badgers were able to make their free throws down the wire. After starting the game 2 of 7 from the charity stripe Wisconsin finished 6 of 6 from the line in the final 1:39 of the game.

Wilkinson hit all four of his attempts and senior Zach Morley hit a pair for a Wisconsin team that showed a great deal of confidence at the end when tested at the free throw line.

"Other guys had carried us all night," Wilkinson said. "Now it was just time to make a play."

Conversely, it appeared the Spartans were the one's who were nervous during crunch time. Entering the game with the nation's top free-throw shooting squad (81 percent), Michigan State failed to put the game away when it was in their hands.

MSU senior Chris Hill had made 12 of 13 free throws (92 percent) this season before he toed the line with 1:53 remaining Sunday. But with the Spartans holding a 5-point edge, Hill missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

With 1:27 to go and the lead down to three, Davis missed the front end of his own 1-and-1.

For the game, the Badgers held MSU to a season-low six made free throws on a season-low 11 attempts.

Wisconsin entered the game shooting just 66 percent from the free throw line.

Taylor pays dividends in win

Also stepping up for the Badgers in the most crucial time was sophomore guard Kammron Taylor. Taylor played 17 minutes and scored five points in the game, but his impact was felt most when he connected on Wisconsin's game-winning score with 31 seconds remaining.

After a huge stop defensively, the Badgers called upon Taylor to create his own shot and he delivered.

"We hit the high post and I cut off Mike [Wilkinson] and he gives me the handoff," Taylor said. "It worked. I think they cleared out the side."

Taylor was the first Badger off the bench Sunday for Ryan's team and was quiet for much of the game. Aside from his game-winning runner, Taylor only took two other shots from the field—connecting on a 3-pointer midway through first half. But down the wire, UW went to its young guard because of his quickness defensively and his ball handling skill.

Taylor rose to the occasion.

"Kam made a great play and finished it off," Wilkinson said. "He's worked on that shot a lot in practice and it paid off for him in the game."

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