Sunday was the exception to what has generally been the rule this millennium.
The No. 7 Michigan State basketball team, coming off a 60-50 loss at Illinois, arrived at the Kohl Center here for a highly-touted nationally televised matchup at Wisconsin. Michigan State (12-3 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) left the building amidst chants from the Kohl Center faithful of "Overrated" and "Bo owns Izzo," losing to AP-unranked Wisconsin (12-2, 2-0) 82-63.
With MSU focusing much of its attention on stopping forward Alando Tucker, Badger guard Kammron Taylor led the way for the Badgers, scoring 27 points. Tucker finished with a team-high six rebounds and 17 points, after being limited to seven points on 2-of -11 shooting in the first half. He only hit 6 of 17 free throws.
"[Taylor] got into the flow a little bit more offensively from a scoring end," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "There were times where we needed a bucket or times we needed something to happen, Kam is an opportunist and he fed off of that."
"More attention (to) one guy gets does open up things for other players," Ryan said. "If Kam is one of the recipients of that, then that's fine with the team."
"[Butch] does whatever he can to contribute and that's what we knew about him in high school," Ryan said. "He's trying to be as versatile as he can—inside, outside, make good passes, play good defense, just as any player on a team should."
Michigan State's Shannon Brown provided the bulk of the Spartans' offense, scoring 31 points. The rest of MSU's starting five combined for 30 points and reserve forward Matt Trannon had two—the lone player off the Spartan bench to score.
Two of MSU's three best players looked lackluster against Wisconsin. Maurice Ager, a pre-season All-American who was averaging a team-high 21.1 points, shot 5-for-19 and was limited to 11 points. He fouled out with 1:54 left. MSU center Paul Davis, who was averaging 19.3 points, put up a paltry two on 1 of 6 shooting in 29 minutes.
"Our two stars (Ager and Davis), they're not playing very well," Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. "In fact, they're playing awful… I think they're struggling right now and we're just going to have to work our way through it."
"No team is going to do well if two of their three best players don't play well at all," Izzo said.
Michigan State took an early 8-0 lead with 17:17 to go in the first half and looked poised to continue that run. But Taylor hit a 3-pointer to put Wisconsin on the board with 16:52 left in the half, after the Badgers had gone 0-for-4 in the first three minutes.
"We thought we defended fairly well the first half and then we started turning the ball over and giving up lay-ups," said Izzo, whose team committed 15 turnovers and shot 35 percent in the game.
Wisconsin's defense held MSU without a field goal while the Badgers chipped away at the other end. Sophomore guard Michael Flowers gave UW its first lead, 10-9, with a 3-pointers seven minutes into the game.
Michigan State and Wisconsin fought tooth and nail for the next few points before Taylor stole the ball and raced down the floor for a fast-break layup that put UW up 16-15. That kicked off a key Wisconsin 14-2 run to give UW a 28-17 lead with 4:22 left in the first half. UW entered halftime up 36-26.
The Badgers built upon their momentum early in the second half. Taylor and Tucker combined for Wisconsin's first 10 points after halftime, helping UW to build a 23-point lead three minutes into the second half.
The Spartans drew no closer than 13 points, while Wisconsin put on a clinic in the second half, highlighted by a steal and dunk from Marcus Landry with 12:28 left and three 3-pointers from Taylor. The Badgers shot 75 percent (15 of 20) in the second half and 52 percent overall.
"We talked about it at halftime, that we just have to keep executing," Taylor said. "A lot of teams go into halftime, they see they're up by 10 and they lose focus."
In the physical, intense matchup, Wisconsin and Michigan State combined for 42 personal fouls, with MSU racking up 24 of those. In addition to Ager, Trannon fouled out with 5:17 left after playing 21 minutes. Davis sat about six minutes late in the first half after picking up his second foul and finished with three personals.
UW center Greg Stiemsma collected four personal fouls in 12 minutes. Wisconsin's physical posts—namely Butch, Stiemsma, and Jason Chappell—prevented Michigan State from maintaining an inside presence.
"One thing that helped our case is they got in early foul trouble," said Butch, who had two fouls. "As a player, anytime you get into early foul trouble, it's kind of tough to get back into that routine and your rhythm."
Wisconsin's 82 points Sunday were the most the Badgers have scored against Michigan State since Feb. 2, 1994, when Wisconsin won 87-62 at the Field House in Madison. The win Sunday was the Badgers' first over a top-10 team since their 72-66 win over No. 7 Illinois Jan. 5, 2002.