Michigan State traveled to Wisconsin and came away with a huge road win, 86-74, to give the Spartans' sole possession of first place in the Big Ten standings.
Coming off a home loss to Northwestern, and with five days of practice between games, Michigan State played with a tenacity that Wisconsin was unable to match.
The Badgers scored the games' first eight points, but Michigan State settled in to take their first lead of the game, 12-11, with twelve and a half minutes remaining in the first half.
The difference came on the defensive end of the floor. After allowing Wisconsin to make three of their first five shots, the Spartans locked in on defense and held the Badgers to just three makes on their next 16 shot attempts. MSU led 20-13 with nine minutes to go in the first.
Michigan State continued to gain momentum as the first half continued, as the Spartans built their lead as high as 38-21 before taking a 42-26 lead into halftime.
Wisconsin started to chip away at their deficit in the second half however. The Badgers closed the gap to 58-52 with 10 minutes to play in the game. Michigan State bounced back however, going on an 11-3 run to rebuild its lead to 69-55 with six and a half minutes left.
That run took the last wind out of Wisconsin's sails, and the Spartans cruised to a 12-point victory.
1. A championship-caliber victory
This was a huge road win for Michigan State. The Spartans gave away a home game to Northwestern last week, and with back-to-back road trips to ranked Big Ten opponents, MSU needed a bounce back. They got that tonight and then some, building a lead as large as 17 points on their way to the win. Michigan State just beat a Top 10 conference opponent soundly. The Spartans played like a team that had felt Tom Izzo's fury during the five days between this game and the Northwestern game. A great effort to pick up a massive road win.
2. Spartan bench brings scoring punch
For the second consecutive game, Michigan State's carried a huge portion of the overall scoring. Malik Hall led the Spartans with 14 points on an efficient 7-of-11from the floor. Hall added eight rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block for a great all-around effort for the junior. Sophomore AJ Hoggard was also really good tonight with 12 points, eight assists, four rebounds, a steal and a block. Freshman Jaden Akins also had a nice performance after going dormant in recent games. The youngster finished with 10 points and went 2-for-2 from three-point range. Julius Marble pitched in with six points.
3. Max Christie bounces back
The freshman struggled offensively in the loss to Northwestern, going just 1-of-8 from the floor, but Max Christie bounced back tonight. The freshman had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and knocked down both of his three-point attempts. Christie added three rebounds and played his usual, sound defense in a nice overall effort. The freshman has certainly settled in to the college game. He struggled to score efficiently early this season, but in the last month or so it's becoming an anomaly to see him not shoot the ball well.
4. Michigan State dominates the boards
We noted earlier that the Spartans' effort level was clearly raised a notch in this game, coming off the lackluster effort against Northwestern. Nowhere was that more evident than in the rebounding margin. Michigan State out-rebounded Wisconsin 41-22 on the night, and had 13 offensive rebounds on only 26 missed shot attempts — remarkable. Joey Hauser led the way with 11 rebounds, to go with his seven points and two assists. Marcus Bingham Jr. was also better tonight, finishing with nine points and five rebounds.
5. Spartans take over first place in Big Ten
Again, we talked about how big of a win this was for Michigan State earlier, but with this win the Spartans now hold sole possession of first place in the Big Ten standings. Illinois lost to Maryland, 81-65, earlier on Friday, dropping the Fighting Illini into a second-place tie with Wisconsin. Michigan State will travel to Illinois on Tuesday with a chance to put more distance between themselves and the Fighting Illini. After that, the Spartans will return home for a Saturday showdown with rival Michigan at the Breslin Center.