EAST LANSING — Led by Keith Appling’s 19 points and five rebounds, the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans (23-7, 12-5) routed the No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers (20-10, 11-6) 58-43 and have kept their Big Ten title hopes alive.
Michigan State has now moved into a three-way tie for second place in the Big Ten with Michigan and Ohio State. If Indiana beats Michigan on Sunday the Hoosiers will win the Big Ten title outright, however, if the Wolverines win, there could potentially be a four-way share of the Big Ten championship.
Aside from staying afloat in the Big Ten title race, the Spartans ended their three-game losing streak on Thursday night. Despite shooting just under 37 percent from the field, MSU was able to make up for a lot of their missed shots with second chance opportunities, as 16 of their 42 rebounds were on the offensive end. Tom Izzo’s team also grabbed 16 steals and limited their turnovers to only 10.
“That’s the way you got to win in tournaments,” Izzo said. “You got to find a way to win, you got to find a way to compete.”
Izzo was ecstatic with the outcome against a Wisconsin team that has really surprised many in the Big Ten this season, but the play of his point guard played a big part in the short-term amnesia of his team’s bad shooting performance.
“Tonight may have been worth it for two reasons,” Izzo said. “One, of course is the win, and two, seeing Keith smile. That made my day.”
Appling, who has been struggling offensively as of late, seemed to find his groove, and played at the level that had his name in Big Ten Player of the Year discussions earlier in the season.
“I was just happy to see a couple shots fall,” Appling said. “I haven’t seen that in a couple of games. I was just feeling good.”
The junior seemed to find comfort with his pull-up jumper, something that he has shied away from in recent weeks.
“I feel like one of the things where I went wrong these past couple of games is starting the games off with early threes.” Appling said. “I just got to try to start off by knocking a couple of mid-range jump shots down and try to get a feel for the game before I start launching threes.”
Michigan State also received a huge boost off the bench from Travis Trice. The sophomore point guard has missed numerous games this season with a concussion and has failed to really get into a rhythm since returning on Feb. 19. Trice went 2-for-3 from the field for five points and added five rebounds. He also had a team-high in both steals (6) and assists (4).
“I don’t feel like I’m all the way back but I think tonight was a step in the right direction,” Trice said. “I just tried to slow it down and let the game come to me.”
Izzo said earlier in the week that he felt Trice was trying to hard to make up for missed time and that was the reason he hasn’t been himself since coming back.
“I tried to correct that,” Trice said in regards to trying to make up for lost time. “Me and him (Izzo) talked on the phone and I think that’s what I tried to do tonight, just slow it down.”
While Michigan State was solid defensively on Thursday, causing 17 turnovers, they got a little help from a Badger team that shot 3-for-15 from downtown, two very uncommon statistics from a Bo Ryan coached team. However, Michigan State did a good job of capitalizing off Wisconsin’s uncharacteristic mistakes.
“This is just one of those type of games we were going to make things go are way,” Appling said. “Losing sucks, simple as that. We just didn’t want to experience another loss.”
The Spartans will host Northwestern on Sunday, but with a victory and with the help of Michigan, there is a chance they could be hanging another Big Ten banner in the Breslin.