Spartan scoring runs stymie Wisconsin

MSU's "Big Three" comes through; Taylor struggles

EAST LANSING, Mich.—Throughout the first 10 minutes of Thursday night's 74-65 loss, it looked as if Wisconsin had the Michigan State Spartans right where they wanted them. After Michigan State center Paul Davis registered two quick fouls in the game's opening minutes, Wisconsin went on a 14-4 run in the three minutes, 26 seconds Davis was on the bench to build a 23-13 lead.

However, a key foul call on Alando Tucker forced the Big Ten's leading scorer to sit on the bench with 10:52 remaining in the first half. With Tucker sidelined, Davis' aggressiveness led the Spartans on a quick 9-0 run over the next three minutes to bring Michigan State and the Spartans' student section, aptly called the "IZZone", back to life.

"That was definitely a game changing call because as soon as they called that, [Michigan State] went on a run when I had to sit down," Tucker said of the second personal foul he was assessed. "We were working our plan [well] early and they got some momentum going there way. It's hard trying to stay with a team of this caliber when they have the fans and the momentum on their side."

Building off the momentum of an 22-8 run to end the first half, the Spartans continued driving right at Wisconsin to begin the second half. When Jason Chappell picked up his fourth foul just 13 seconds into the half, Davis led the charge in the paint. He scored the next six Michigan State points to help push the Spartan lead to 12.

Wisconsin wouldn't quit however, as the Badgers slowly chipped away at the Spartan lead over the next 10 minutes to put them within reach. After Tucker was fouled at the 5:07 mark, Wisconsin had an opportunity to cut the insurmountable lead to just two. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, that's when the wheels came off.

Tucker missed both free throws. Michigan State's outlet pass on the ensuing rebound found its way into the hands of senior Maurice Ager, who sank the jumper and was fouled by UW guard Michael Flowers. From that point on, Ager took over, scoring 12 of his 19 points in a span of 3:10 to push the Spartan lead to 14, at 73-59, their biggest of the game. Ager's outburst put the game out of reach for Wisconsin.

"That stretch right around the five-minute mark [hurt]," head coach Bo Ryan said. "We get a couple of free throws that don't go in and all kind of things could have happened then. As a coach and as a team, you are playing on the road in a [two] possession game, that is where you would like to keep it. We've been in those kinds of games before and we've been able to win them. Then we let it get to 14 points and that was the ball game. They played better than we did."

Besides the Spartan scoring runs, the story of the game was the scoring spree led by Michigan State's "Big Three" against the Badgers. Seniors Paul Davis and Maurice Ager, along with junior Shannon Brown, scored a combined 64 points for the Spartans, with Davis leading the way with a game-high 27. With center Jason Chappell and forward Joe Krabbenhoft having to miss significant time due to foul trouble, Wisconsin had trouble getting in a rhythm defensively.

"The biggest problem was on the defensive end [tonight]," Tucker said. "It's hard trying to guard those three guys. We contained Brown for most of the second half, Ager knocked down some big shots at the end and Davis was a force the entire game. We couldn't get any stops and when they are knocking down shots (and) they (had) momentum on both sides of the ball."

Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the Badgers didn't have the same success scoring baskets, especially in the case of point guard Kammron Taylor. Taylor finished the night with just 9 points on 4 of 18 shooting, including an 0-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc. Shooting 41 percent just three weeks ago, Taylor has shot just 27 percent since, scoring no more than 12 points in his last four games. With Wisconsin closing out the regular season in just two days at Iowa, it's important for Taylor to stay upbeat and remain confident in his abilities.

"He had a tough game, especially after starting out strong," Tucker said. "These are the games that we've got a short turnaround and he's our point guard. We have a lot to look forward to and we can't let him get down. If we want to be a better team, he has to stay confident and know that we're still behind him, good game or bad game, because these kind of games happen."

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