East Lansing, MI – In a year filled with firsts, the Michigan State basketball team added another to the list.
For the first time in the program's 122-season history, MSU played a Christmas Day game against Wisconsin.
The Spartans played on Christmas Eve in 1934, 1941, and 1945, and a Tom Izzo led squad won the Pearl Harbor Classic in 1998, but even then, those contests spanned Dec. 21-23 in Hawaii.
But never the day of.
Wisconsin is an extremely tough group to guard – the Badgers backcourt can post-up, preventing opponents from offering help defense because their big men can spot up from deep and consistently hit three-pointers.
Yet, MSU hung in there, down two points (35-33) with 3:46 left in the half while shooting 61%; however, seven turnovers led to 14-points for UW.
Even so, Michigan State played with far more energy than on the road versus Northwestern and walked into the locker room knotted up at 42 apiece.
Sophomore guard Rocket Watts had six assists (ended with career-high 7) and only one giveaway; whereas Aaron Henry (8), Joshua Langford (5), Joey Hauser (11, 27-total, new career-high), and Julius Marble (4) chipped in with scoring in a matchup much more entertaining than it was years ago.
If the Spartans find ways to limit turnovers in the final 20-minutes and maintain a high level of execution/energy, then MSU might be on their way to a holiday victory.
Michigan State got off to a good start thanks to Langford's immediate 3-pointer and a bucket underneath by Thomas Kithier, which ended with a 9-0 run for the Spartans.
However, the Badgers would push back, specifically D'Mitrik Trice (the brother of former Spartan Travis Trice), who dropped 29-points on 14 shots and drained 4-of-7 three-pointers.
He scored Wisconsin's first 13-points out of halftime, single-handedly pulling UW back in front 57-56 on MSU with 11:03 left.
Although Hauser and the Spartans would do everything in their power to not be denied, continuously fighting to keep it close, when he and Kithier are the only players to score following the 9:47 mark, it becomes problematic.
And eventually, the Badgers won out, beating Michigan State, 85-76; cementing the Spartans first 0-2 start in Big Ten play since 2006-07.
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