Close ... but No Cigar

Michigan State can lay claim to a national championship, five final fours and five Big Ten Championships under head coach Tom Izzo. The one thing the Spartans can't boast about is a winning record over Wisconsin under head coach Bo Ryan.

EAST LANSING, Mich. - If Badgers fans scramble to find the date of the Marquette-Wisconsin game first when the Wisconsin basketball schedule comes out every summer, the next best option is finding where Michigan State and Tom Izzo appear.

Since 2001-02, when Bo Ryan arrived and Michigan State one year removed from winning the national championship, no one has delivered more nagging pain to the Spartans, as Ryan's 11-4 record is something UW fans love to bring up whenever the opportunity presents itself.

With No.17 Wisconsin (12-2, 2-0 Big Ten) set to take on No.10 Michigan State (11-3, 1-0) at the Breslin Center here Wednesday, it is shaping up to be another classic, as long as the Badgers can apply their learning lessons from their 17-point win in State College.

"The big thing for us is to look at what Michigan State does well that we need to get better at," assistant coach Howard Moore said. "Coming out of the Penn State game, I felt we could have done a better job at rebounding the basketball and next thing you know, we have to play one of the best rebounding teams in the country. We need to use each game to work on things we need to be better at.

"MSU is a physical team that isn't going to let you move and cut where you want to cut and go. I think there are a lot of challenges in this game and the measuring stick is how you answer those challenges. The biggest part is how are we going to handle one of the best teams in the country and stop them from doing what they want?"

The results and the high drama early in the series would put ‘Days of Our Lives' to shame. In the first meeting between Ryan and Izzo, MSU squandered a 10-point lead in the second half, thought it won on a tip-in from Kelvin Torbert at the buzzer (followed by an Izzone floor rushing), then finds out the clock didn't start on time and the basket is waved off, ending MSU's 53-game home winning streak and leaving MSU one game out of the Big Ten race (with UW getting a piece of the title).

A year later, UW is in full control when sophomore Devin Harris gets a loose ball and throws a lob to freshman Alando Tucker, who dunks right before the buzzer, a course of events that still ticks off Izzo even when it's brought up.

Next chapter, UW blows out the Spartans by 13 at home, but all MSU needs to do in a home game against UW is to win to be Big Ten Champions. During shoot around, the UW coaches notice MSU's Big Ten banner rolled up in the rafters, ready to be displayed when the buzzer sounds. Paul Davis scores 26 but sits the final seven minutes with painful cramps and UW comes back to win by four in overtime.

In 2005, the Spartans blow an eight-point lead with less than two minutes left and the ‘0-for-Bo' shirts are selling like hotcakes. It's a rivalry nobody inside the program puts extra weight on compared to any other school, but one the UW fan base love to reminisce about. The Badgers don't have time to go down memory lane, especially considering UW has three of its next four on the road and a home match-up with No.4 Purdue this Saturday.

"It's a tough stretch for us, don't get me wrong," senior guard Jason Bohannon said. "We got on the road for a lot of games, but we are focused on one game at a time. We have to come ready to play each time we go there. Anytime you play Michigan State, it's a very tough, grind-them-out game.

"It's a battle. Everything they do is tough. Everything we do is tough for them as well. It's one of those Big Ten games everybody looks forward to. Anytime you have an opponent like Michigan State coming to play, it's a great test for your team. We look at those challenges as a great opportunity to show what we can do."

With that thought in mind, Badger Nation looks at the last eight meetings between the two schools, with UW holding a 5-3 record.

Jan. 8, 2006: No. 7 Michigan State at No. 24 Wisconsin

Final score: 82-63 Wisconsin

Recap: Riding the hot-shooting Kammron Taylor, who tied his career high in points, and Alando Tucker, whose 17 points helped the Badgers opened up a 10-point halftime lead and put the vehicle on cruise control. MSU Shannon Brown dropped 31 points, but the rest of Spartans were stuck in neutral, performance, unable to get past UW for the seventh time in its past eight meetings.

March 2, 2006: No. 25 Wisconsin at No. 23 Michigan State

Final score: 74-65 Michigan State

Recap: The Badgers received an unnecessary makeover since the January meeting and were deeply struggling without Marcus Landry and Greg Stiemsma, who were academically ineligible for the second semester. Tucker was required to carry most of the slack, which he did with 23 points, but the future All-American couldn't do it all. Center Paul Davis dominated the paint to the tune of 27 points and Maurice Ager (19 points) and Shannon Brown (18 points) helped the Spartans erase a 10-point first-half deficit to earn the victory.

Feb. 20, 2007: No. 1 Wisconsin at Michigan State

Final score: 64-55 Michigan State

Recap: It's a victory Izzo said was probably the most satisfying since winning the 2000 National Championship. Wisconsin, ranked No.1 in the AP poll for the first time in school history, had a one-point lead at halftime, but Drew Neitzel proved too much in the second half. The junior guard finished with 28 points, hitting clutch shot after shot in the final five minutes.

Marcus Landry added 18 points and Tucker, although struggling to find a groove, chipped in with 16, but couldn't prevent the student section from storming the court at the buzzer.

March 3, 2007: Michigan State at No. 5 Wisconsin

Final score: 52-50 Wisconsin

Recap: It was sweet revenge for the Badgers, who saw their No.1 ranking and chance for a Big Ten championship flitter away after back-to-back road losses to the Spartans and No.1 Ohio State. Honoring the seniors on Senior Day, both Tucker and Taylor did their parts. Tucker continued his remarkable season with a game-high 26 points and Taylor, who was only 2-of-9 up, hit a deep three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left for the lead. MSU had a chance after the timeout, putting the ball in the hands of Neitzel and his 22 points, but his shot missed everything.

"Hit it," said Taylor when asked what was going through his mind. "That's was seniors do. We've got to step up and make good plays when it counts."

March 9, 2007: Michigan State vs. No. 4 Wisconsin (Big Ten Tournament)

Final score: 70-57 Wisconsin

Recap: Facing the same team for the third time in 17 days, Wisconsin saved its best for the last, nearly cruising from start to finish Even without Tucker's contributions, as the national player of the year candidate was held to just three first half points, UW had a comfortable 15-point lead at intermission in Chicago. But when the Spartans cut the lead to five in the second half, Tucker, like seniors do, got the ball rolling with 18 second-half points.

Feb. 28, 2008: No. 20 Michigan State at No. 5 Wisconsin

Final score: 57-42 Wisconsin

Recap: The only scheduled meeting between the two clubs, senior Brian Butch hit a career-high four three-pointers on his way to a game-high 16 points and the Badgers only committed one turnover, compliments of Joe Krabbenhoft dribbling a ball off his foot and a play Ryan still jokes about from time to time. The 42 points were a stable of that year's team – relentless defense, shutting down the paint and harassing opponent's top scorers. Neitzel was a non-factor, shooting a pedestrian 1-of-10 from the field.

The win gave the Badgers their 14th conference victory, setting a new school record at the time. After wins over Penn State and Northwestern, the Badgers had their third conference crown in the past seven years.

March 15, 2008: No. 19 Michigan State vs. No. 6 Wisconsin (Big Ten Tournament)

Final score: 65-63 Wisconsin

Recap: Of all the different reasons Wisconsin rose to the top of the Big Ten in 08, a good place to start would be the seniors. Michael Flowers' last-minute steal on Neitzel and Butch's 19 points gave UW a 65-63 victory in Indianapolis. The top-seeded Badgers stole a berth in the tournament finals Sunday by overcoming a 12-point deficit in the final eight minutes.

"I don't think words will adequately describe what these guys did in the comeback," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "I really liked what these guys did on every possession. It was an extremely physical and tough game, but in the end our guys just managed to get one more possession."

Flowers drew a grueling defensive assignment in Neitzel, and the Spartan guard had 26 points to lead all scorers. But after getting beat up all game, Flowers threw the last punch. With 30 seconds to go he stole Lucas' intended pass for Neitzel, drove the floor with the Spartan guard breathing down his neck, and skied for a layup to give the Badgers a 65-63 advantage – their largest lead of the game.

Neitzel had a chance to win the game with a three-point look at the buzzer, but he missed wide right and the buzzer sounded before anybody could get the rebound. Neitzel scored 15 in the first half, but struggled in the second half with 1-for-5 three-point shooting. He had just three points in the final 9:55.

Feb. 22, 2009: Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Michigan State

Final score: 61-50 Michigan State

Recap: Marred in a shooting slumber for 75 percent of the game, the Spartans came alive in the final 10 minutes of the second half, closing the game on a 32-9 run to emerge victorious. The loss snaps Wisconsin's season-best five game winning streak and its four game winning streak over the Spartans.

After Jason Bohannon and Marcus Landry each nailed a three pointer in a 90 second span to give Wisconsin a 12-point lead, its biggest of the game, at 12:31 of the second half, Michigan State went on its run. After regrouping with a timeout, the Spartans, down 41-29, went on an 18-4 run over the next seven-plus minutes to take their first lead since 2-0. Landry answered on the next possession with a turn around jumper at 3:41, ending an eight minute, 30 second field goal drought, but the Spartans continued to pile it on, getting a two point jumper from Lucas (game-high 17 points) and back-to-back three pointers from Chris Allen and Lucas, the Spartans first two made threes of the game. From there, it was all downhill for Wisconsin, as the Badgers could never answer back.

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