Two teams with Big Ten title hopes met Tuesday night understanding only one would have a realistic chance to win a league championship after 40 minutes.
The University of Wisconsin (17-5, 5-3 Big Ten) pulled within a half-game of first place in the Big Ten Conference with a 64-53 victory over Michigan State at the Kohl Center, ending the Spartans three-game winning streak. Michigan State dropped to 13-9 (5-5 Big Ten), a severe blow to its chances for the Big Ten regular season championship.
Kirk Penney, Devin Harris and Mike Wilkinson led the Badgers with 14 points apiece, pulling within striking distance of first-place Purdue and Michigan with six games remaining in the regular season.
The Badgers shot just 37 percent from the floor against Michigan State's 52.4 percent, but turned the ball over just five times and didn't allow the Spartans many easy shots. Wisconsin was concerned about defending Michigan State's lethal transition game, but didn't allow a single fast break point.
"Any time you can force a team like them into taking some of the shots they ended up taking, and get them to turn it over 15 times, I think you have to be happy with most of the execution," said Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan.
Wisconsin maintained its perfect home Big Ten record in the Bo Ryan era, winning its 13th consecutive Big Ten home game. The Badgers have won 22 of their last 23 home conference battles.
The Spartans were led by a dominant second half performance by freshman Erazem Lorbek. All of Lorbek's game-high 19 points came in the second half, after playing just nine minutes and attempting one shot before the break.
With 6-11 center Paul Davis and 6-8, 260-pound forward Aloysius Anagonye sidelined early in the second half with three fouls each, Lorbek picked up the slack for the Spartans inside. He rattled off eight consecutive points in less than two minutes, pulling MSU within four points, 41-37, with 12:28 remaining in the game.
Four minutes later, Lorbek converted a three-point play inside on a pinpoint bounce pass from Kelvin Torbert to pull the Spartans to a 46-44 deficit.
"We did a pretty good job of hitting our slip-men," Izzo said. "(Lorbek) was open and Torbert and (Chris) Hill both gave him some good passes in there and he got lay-ups."
Torbert hit a shot to tie the game, 48-48 with 5:25 remaining in the game, but Wisconsin used four consecutive points by Penney and a clutch 3-pointer by Alando Tucker to spark a 16-5 run to close out the victory. Tucker put an exclamation point on the win at the buzzer, slamming home an alley-oop pass by Harris to send the crowd into a frenzy.
Izzo wasn't quite as impressed with the dunk. He was steaming mad following the game, feeling the Badgers had disrespected his team. Izzo refused to comment on the incident in the postgame press conference.
"I would never allow my team to do that, and I'm not going to talk about it," Izzo said.
Ryan understood Izzo's anger, saying he was upset his players rubbed in the score with the late basket. He voiced his displeasure to Harris and Tucker following the game, and said the situation would be handled internally.
"I walk out of there saying that's a 19-year old throwing to an 18-year old in a situation where Michigan State is the marked team," Ryan said. "It's not something I've ever coached. It's two young men that finished with an exclamation point. They were pretty excited we were able to beat a team like Michigan State here."
Wisconsin only turned the ball over twice in the first half, but struggled to build a substantial early lead because of its poor shooting. The Badgers hit just five of their first 21 field goals, and finished the half at 31.3 percent shooting.
In a half that saw the lead change hands seven times, the Badgers pulled to a 31-27 advantage at the break behind the hot hand of Mike Wilkinson. After missing six of his first seven attempts, Wilkinson hit three of his next four shots and made two free throws for 12 points in the first half.
The Spartans were hurt by two quick fouls to Anagonye, who sat the final 8:30 of the half. In the five minutes that Anagonye was on the floor, Michigan State outscored Wisconsin 8-2.
Due to a 6 p.m. start, combined with a nasty snowstorm that developed shortly before rush hour, the Kohl Center was less than half-full when the nationally-televised game tipped off. Although the game was technically a sellout, there were patches of empty seats until midway through the second half because of the inclement weather.
But by the end of the second half, the crowd had reached a fever pitch, making life difficult for the road team.
"The ones that did get in there got their money's worth. It certainly sounded like every seat was filled," Ryan said.
The Badgers host Indiana Saturday at noon, while Michigan State returns to the Breslin Center in East Lansing for a 3:01 tipoff against Northwestern.
Badgers Knock Off Michigan State
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