Don’t blink; the Wisconsin Badgers are back.
As soon as you think you have this Badger team figured out, they go right ahead and throw a curveball leaving you wondering what just happened.
On Sunday, conference leading Michigan State came into Madison to what was set to be a classic Big Ten slugfest. To say the least, it didn’t disappoint.
Before tip off, the Spartans knew adversity would be the name of the game. They had been fighting injury all season long and Sunday saw no difference. Starting point guard Keith Appling sat out for his second straight game due to a wrist problem. Super athlete Branden Dawson continued to nurse his hand which he broke after slamming it into a table. On top of all of that, All-Big Ten center Adreian Payne had just came off of a seven-game hiatus battling a sprained foot.
The senior knew the importance of his value, as he rose to the occasion and gave everything the Badgers could handle. Two minutes into the game he showed us the foot was just fine by throwing down a thunderous tomahawk jam.
Bo Ryan was ready to counter. He quickly turned to his bench and summoned his new favorite weapon, Nigel Hayes. After checking in, the foul drawing machine went right to work. Hayes knocked down a jumper and got to the line in a matter of 30 seconds.
The first half of action was a tug of war until the 5:50 mark, when Hayes hit a jumper igniting a 11-0 run to end the half. Michigan State looked lost, missing thirteen consecutive shots.
It wouldn’t take long for the Spartans to get out of their funk. Within the first three minutes of the second half, Michigan State’s deficit was reduced to a single point. Back to back dunks by Gary Harris lifted momentum for MSU.
It would then turn into a classic Big Ten grudge-match. One we have become accustomed to when these two power houses meet. Nigel Hayes continued to step up for the Badgers as he bullied his way to the foul four times. Michigan State then turned back to Adreian Payne who simply dominated. The drama would only increase as the final minutes ticked down.
With 3:30 remaining, Wisconsin created some breathing room, pulling away by seven points, but in a matter of minutes they were back gasping for air. They were held scoreless for the next three minutes until Frank Kaminsky nailed a three with 30 seconds remaining. It only took six seconds for Gary Harris to answer with a three of his own. Wisconsin would then send Ben Brust to the line to finish off the Spartans.
Brust, who shoots 92% from the line, was Wisconsin’s best bet to close the door. Sure enough, he missed the free throw giving eight-time coach of the year Tom Izzo a chance to draw up play.
You can guess what happens next. A perfectly executed half-court set left Adrian Payne wide open on top of three point line. He sinks it, and the next think you know we’re tied 58-58 with nine seconds remaining.
It was up in the air to who was going to take the last shot for the Badgers. With the whole team playing well there wasn’t a wrong way to turn. Bo Ryan may have drawn up a play but soon as Treavon Jackson was inbounded the ball he was not giving it up. Jackson raced down the court, pulled up from ten feet away, and provided the dagger leaving two seconds on the clock.
No one needed the shot more than Jackson. His recent struggles have drawn criticism about his abilities running the Badger offense. Jackson however, payed no to attention to that and added yet another big time shot to his resume. Jackson’s back and Badger fans have to be excited of what’s to come for this Wisconsin team.
I’m going to give a tip of the hat to coach Bo Ryan. It was clear the Badger’s focus was to eliminate Gary Harris from the game. Harris is the Spartans leading scorer but it didn’t show on Sunday. He went just 3-20 from the field with two of the those buckets coming from easy dunks. With Payne’s injury in question, Bo Ryan must of figured that Harris was the Badgers biggest threat. Even with Harris being a non-factor, Tom Izzo was still able to keep his team in the mix. It was a chess match between the two coaches but this time Bo Ryan would prevail.
Wisconsin is right back in the the thick of things as they will hope to add on to their two game win streak. Their brief stint out of AP’s top 25 poll is over. They have bounced back to #21 in the nation. The once dismantled Badgers have found new life. Next up on the agenda, the Golden Gophers, who travel into Madison on Thursday.