No.16 Wisconsin trailed 1-0 and that was it, leading by as many as 17 points in the first half and never let the led dip below eight after that on its way to a resounding 67-49 victory in front of 17,230 fans at the Kohl Center Tuesday.
Four players scored in double figures for Wisconsin (17-5, 7-3 Big Ten), led by Bohannon's game-high 19 that put the Badgers back into sole possession of second place and gives Michigan State (19-4, 9-1) its first conference loss of the season.
"We want to win the Big Ten title," said sophomore Jordan Taylor (17 points). "That's one of the goals we set out for as soon as we lost to Xavier last year. That's one of the goals – Big Ten title, Big Ten Tournament title, Final Four. We just want to win games (and) that's obviously a big win. It puts us back in contention."
Everything seemed to click for the Badgers Tuesday. Defeating its third ranked team in the AP top 10 this season (the first time UW has done that since 1999-2000) Wisconsin dished out 17 assists (best in a conference game), shot above 50 percent (50.9 percent) for the first time in conference play against the conference's best field-goal percentage defense and held the Spartans to a season-low in points.
"I would say that defensively, tracking down loose balls, we played pretty well," said UW Coach Bo Ryan, who improved to 12-5 overall and 7-0 at home against the Spartans. "To beat a team like that, you have to play well."
Said Izzo: "I thought for the most part that was an old-fashioned whooping. They came out and really took it to us early, made a lot of shots and they deserve the credit."
Things looked dicey to first four minutes when senior Trevon Hughes picked up two quick fouls, forcing him to spend the final 16 minutes, 59 second of the first half on the Wisconsin sideline. But like the Badgers have done in past games when junior Jon Leuer was saddled with first-half foul trouble, Wisconsin's depth had an answer.
Taylor scored 10 of the Badgers' first 13 points to put the Spartans on their heels. When Michigan State cut the lead down to six, Bohannon took over, scoring nine of his 12 first-half points to give Wisconsin a 38-23 lead, effectiveness that surprised Izzo.
"We just didn't guard very well, and we've been guarding very well," Izzo said. "Tom Izzo did a poor job on the preparation of those ball screens. I watched enough film and just didn't get enough done … It was a poor coached job by me."
Added Bohannon: "We've had guys step up. Rob (Wilson) (5-of-5, 10 points) came in the game and gave us some great minutes tonight. Just up and down the line, there are guys stepping up filling different roles every given night. When you have a team like that, it's a very big factor."
Every time any Big Ten team matches up with a Michigan State squad, there are three essentials they need to achieve – win the battle of the boards, limit the turnovers and be productive from the perimeter.
Wisconsin didn't do that in the first meeting against Michigan State (getting out rebounded by 14, committing 14 turnovers and shooting 5-of-23 from three), but corrected its problems the second time around.
Wisconsin battled to a 14-14 stalemate on the boards in the first half, committed only five turnovers for the game and shot 34.6 percent from three-point range (9-of-26). Even more important, Wisconsin turned 13 Michigan State turnovers into 17 points and out scored Michigan State in the paint 24-12, often referred to as a dead zone for Wisconsin basketball over the past several weeks.
"(It) shows how well (our guards) got into the paint tonight," junior Keaton Nankivil (11 points) said. "We got some post touches, but we were real aggressive toward the basket all night, offensively and defensively."
Guard Durrell Summers led the Spartans with 11 points and Milwaukee-native Korie Lucious added nine to fill in for Kalin Lucas, as the junior guard went down in a heap with 10:40 in the second half after his right ankle landed right on top of Nankivil's foot on a jump shot.
Lucas had to be helped off the floor, didn't return and finished with seven points, ending his 33-game streak of scoring 10 points or more.
"When Lucas went down, that just compounded problems," Izzo said. "He's showered, he's limping bad. It's not a good sprain. It's not broke or anything like that, at least it doesn't seem to be. The issue now is if he's a fast healer."
The Spartans made a late push to keep their perfect conference record perfect, chipping the Wisconsin lead down to eight with 14:11 left. Is what at that point that Wisconsin ended the suspense, going on a 20-10 run to put the game out of reach.
Other than a Lucious three-pointer, the Spartans, who had won 12 of their last 13 league road games, were held without a field goal after chipping the lead to eight for the next 10:21.
"It's nice to beat teams like that at home that have a lot of talent," Taylor said. "At the same time, it's just one game. We just have to go to our next game and try to get better."