Wisconsin to learn from Michigan State loss

Jake Kocorowski

Luckily within the Big Ten basketball schedule, teams quickly need to flip the page and put a loss in the rearview mirror to focus on the next opponent just days later. However, Wisconsin found some takeaways from its 67-55 loss at Michigan State on Jan. 17 inside the Breslin Center.

“There's a lot of things that we can improve on and get better at after going back and watching the film," guard Brad Davison said on Sunday. "Offensively and defensively, a lot of things we can clean up. That's exciting. There's a lot more games to play. We get to see them again pretty quick here (on Feb. 1), so taking things one game at a time, that definitely will be a game we’re looking forward to.”

In the loss, Wisconsin (11-7 overall, 4-3 Big Ten) shot just 35.6% overall, including only 29% in the first half. Its three-point shooting struggled again on the road, this time connecting on four of 19 attempts from beyond the arc.

Playing Michigan State -- now ranked No. 11 in the latest AP Top 25 poll and No. 8 by KenPom.com as of Jan. 21 -- is always a tough challenge under head coach Tom Izzo. That especially holds true when playing in East Lansing where the Badgers have still not won since 2004. KenPom ranks the Spartans as the No. 26 team in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. 

From the perspective of assistant coach Alando Tucker, the defeat can serve as a learning tool in how to stay consistent.

“You're going to get touched, you're going to get bumped on cuts, how not to settle, how to be able to get whatever you want and control the pace," Tucker said on Sunday after Wisconsin's practice. "We got to learn how to be able to get what we want and control the pace, specifically offensively. Teams defensively can't speed us up to get what they want. We got to be able to get what we want. That's about controlling the tempo. Coach (Greg Gard) talked about that all the time. We talked about it as coaches, ‘How can we control the tempo?’

“That comes from our guys understanding that we can't capitulate or surrender to hard defenses or pressure to us, and I think that's something that I think guys are understanding. Every matchup is going to present different obstacles, and we got to be able to understand how to face them. Michigan State was hard defensively. I think we fought well. I don't think it was a question about us competing. It’s a question about us stepping up and making shots with confidence.”

Despite Michigan State taking a 15-point lead into halftime, Wisconsin pulled to within six at 39-33 at the 15:41 mark of the second half after a Nate Reuvers three-pointer. The Spartans would then go on a 24-6 run to open the floodgates in what would eventually lead to a comfortable home win. 

From Tucker's perspective when discussing the offensive production and consistency overall, he alluded to touching the post and getting to the free throw line. He then locked in to what he saw last Friday night.

 "I look at the game against Michigan State, and I'm looking at our opportunities, sometimes we get jump shot happy," Tucker said. "Now we need to make threes, but sometimes we came back in the game. That's when we got it within six. Now we gotta start working into the post. We got to start creating, I would say, different opportunities. I think sometimes we fall in love -- and that's the next generation for me -- everyone falls in love with the three, but I think we got to stick to what makes us really good is working inside out. Sometimes we're not, and we lose a rhythm, right? We lose our rhythm, and our rhythm is being able to get most of your shots from touching here, and you see the ball coming to you. You get 10 toes to the basket. 

"No matter the pressure that we receive, we got to be able to stay true to that. I think that sometimes our rhythm gets thrown off, and we just got to make sure we're working inside out. That's for us. We're great at being able to penetrate. We got guys like Kobe (King). We got to continue to get him to penetrate and create for others."

From the defensive side, Wisconsin allowed Michigan State to make 46.6% of its shots on the evening, including Izzo's team connecting on 53.8% in the first half alone. 

UW contained preseason All-American point guard Cassius Winston to just six points on 3-of-12 shooting, five rebounds and four assists. However, four other Spartans --Xavier Tillman, Aaron Henry, Gabe Brown and Rocket Watts -- picked up the slack and scored in double figures to finish off the win. 

Reuvers noted how the Badgers need to be better defensively, but also called out how the Spartans are good at screening and getting looks.

“Just got to make it a little tougher for them, and also we just got to get better looks on offense," Reuvers said. 

Wisconsin will look ahead one game at a time starting on Tuesday night against Nebraska (8 p.m. CT, BTN), a foe whose 7-11 overall record may be misleading with home wins against Purdue and Iowa and a lineup led by Cam Mack. The guard averages 13.3 points and 8.6 assists per game in conference play heading into the conference clash.

The Badgers also encounter road contests against the Boilermakers and Hawkeyes within the next six days after the Huskers, but it will meet the Spartans one more time during the regular season inside the Kohl Center to kick off February.

The first matchup could go a long way in attempting to conquer MSU at home in a conference where every game is a grind and an opportunity to improve one's NCAA tournament resume.

"They always have really good, athletic guys," Reuvers said. "We have them coming up in about two weeks so we can definitely just look at that film and build on it for when we see them again.”