No. 14 Wisconsin will try to bounce back from its first conference loss when it hosts Michigan State in a Big Ten matchup Tuesday night in Madison, Wis., but much rides on the status of Badgers forward Tyler Wahl.
Wisconsin (11-3, 3-1 Big Ten) lost 79-69 at Illinois on Saturday without Wahl, the team’s leading scorer (13.2 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (6.4), who injured his right ankle in the previous game. The Badgers are a different team without the preseason all-Big Ten pick.
Michigan State (11-4, 3-1) won at home, 59-53, over arch-rival Michigan on Saturday, the Spartans’ sixth consecutive victory.
Wisconsin went into Illinois allowing just 61.2 points per contest but allowed the Illini to shoot 10 of 19 from 3-point range.
“I felt the 3s were the difference,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “We go 8 for 29, and they’re 10 for 19. It’s pretty efficient when you get 30 points on 19 shots.
“For us, defensively I felt was where the game was decided, and what we didn’t do, and what we didn’t get done consistently enough.”
Steven Crowl had 20 points and 12 rebounds vs. Illinois, giving the 7-foot junior 62 points over the last three games. Carter Gilmore, who started in place of Wahl, had four points and seven boards in 30 minutes.
“We’ll regroup,” Gard said. “This league isn’t for the faint of heart, we’ll turn around and get ready for Tuesday night.”
The Spartans held on to beat Michigan after leading by 14 early in the second half, despite a near season-low 59 points. Michigan State clinched the victory hitting 6 of 7 free throws in the final 30 seconds.
“The second half, it kind of felt like that game was in control,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. “And a good coaching lesson and a good lesson for the players, we took a couple bad shots in that stretch. We were 11 up and just like that, give them credit, they changed it. I thought we did enough good things to win the game.”
The Spartans shot 37.5 percent, but Michigan shot just 34.5 percent.
“We didn’t let missed shots really affect us, we still played really good defense for 37 to 40 minutes of the game,” said guard Tyson Walker, who had 14 points. “We held them to pretty low scoring, even though we didn’t score much, we found a way to come out on top.”
Michigan State has four players scoring in double figures, led by Walker at 13.9 points per game. Joey Hauser, a native of Stevens Point, Wis. who began his career at Marquette, adds 13.3 points and a team-high 7.8 boards per game.
Hauser was just 3-of-13 shooting against Michigan, but he had a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Spartans, who average 70.4 points per game while allowing 64.9, are 7-1 when scoring 70 points or more.
Michigan State and Wisconsin split a pair of conference games last season, each winning on the road, and the Spartans then won the third matchup 69-63 in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.
When Michigan State won at Wisconsin last season, Wahl did not play because of a right ankle injury. The Spartans have won 10 of the last 13 against Wisconsin.
–Field Level Media