Wisconsin hosts one of its biggest conference rivals tonight at the Kohl Center in a showdown with huge implications (6 p.m. CST, ESPN). This will be the 112th matchup between the two schools and Michigan State holds a 63-48 advantage. The Badgers won last season's only meeting, 64-63, ending the Spartans' Big Ten record 53-game home winning streak and their nine-game win streak over UW.
The Badgers (16-5, 6-3 Big Ten) are coming off their second victory over the Northwestern Wildcats in a little over than a week. Wisconsin defeated Northwestern 74-59 Saturday afternoon. Senior guard Kirk Penney led the way for the Badgers with 23 points. But the biggest surprise of the game came from the play of sophomore guard Clayton Hanson.
The game was close in the early going until the Badgers rallied, making five consecutive shots halfway through the first half to take a 19-14 lead. Hanson came off the bench late in the first half and made an immediate impact. Hanson drained all four of his three-point attempts and finished with a career-high 12 points.
Next up for Coach Bo Ryan and his Badgers are the Michigan State Spartans. Coach Tom Izzo's troops (13-8, 5-4 Big Ten) are coming off an impressive road win this past weekend at Indiana as freshman center Paul Davis led the way for the Spartans with 21 points and nine rebounds.
As the fountain of youth seems to have hit East Lansing this season, Izzo's squad is slowly but surely beginning to understand and adjust to Big Ten basketball. This year's Spartans' roster is stacked with tall, athletic centers but more importantly is a physical, strong team from top to bottom.
"They're a big, strong-type team," said Ryan. "They certainly don't seem like the kind of team that would wear down during the year. I think if anything, they would be able to pick up activity, because they are thicker, bigger than a lot of the other teams. I think that's part of the reason they are playing better now. They know one another better."
Three Keys to Victory for UW
1) Hitting the Glass - In Big Ten play, the Badgers feature the No. 1 defensive rebounder in Kirk Penney (6.33) and also the no. 2 offensive rebounder in Alando Tucker (3.22). Keeping Michigan State off the boards is a must.
2) Tempo - UW needs to dictate the tempo of the game from the get-go and needs to play a run-and-gun type of offense to keep the Spartans off-guard. Utilizing its speed and playing pesky defense is the key here to maintaining their style of tempo.
3) Free Throws - The Badgers have made 39 more free throws this season than their opponents have attempted. That's a killer stat when it comes down to crunch time and putting teams away.
Three Keys to Victory for Michigan State
1) Block Party - The Spartans are averaging 3.5 blocks per game and have the height across the board to block close to 10 a game. They can really dictate the game, if they control the paint. Return to Sender!
2) Coughing it Up - The Spartans need to limit their 15.1 turnover average per game. Anything more than that, and the victory can be gift-wrapped for the Badgers.
3) Rebounding Margin - UW is + 4.9 in rebounding margin this year. But Michigan State is + 6.7 in rebounds in the Big Ten this season (the only team better than the Badgers). Keeping UW off the glass is a necessity for the Spartans.
The Spartans Are Coming
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