After a close first-half battle, the Badger mens basketball team out-scored Michigan State 29-20 in the second half on their way to a 57-42 win at the Kohl Center Thursday night. Wisconsin improves its record to 24-4 overall and 14-2 in the Big Ten once again taking over sole possession of first place.
Brian Butch led all scorers with 16 points shooting 5-for-10 from the field, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Trevon Hughes chipped in 13 points and four assists while Michael Flowers had nine points. With two games remaining in the regular season, the Badgers are now just two wins away of winning their first Big Ten Title since the 2002-03 season.
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Wisconsin set two new school records during Thursday nights game. As a team the Badgers only committed one turnover and with the win they now have more conference wins (14) than any other season. The previous low turnover mark was two in a 62-58 loss to Penn State on March 3, 1993.
Senior Greg Stiemsma played 13 minutes, but provided a huge spark off the bench in the first half. Five minutes into the game with the score tied 7-7 Stiemsma started the run by blocking Travis Waltons shot. He then hit a jumper two possessions later, blocked another shot, had a tip-in lay-up, and then followed it all up with a power dunk two possessions after that.
Michigan State was led by Goran Suton who finished the night with 14 points and 15 rebounds. MSU drops it record to 22-6 overall and 10-5 in the conference. Wisconsin held MSU to only 34.5 percent shooting for the game as the Spartans were only 1-of-10 from 3-point range and 3-for-5 from the charity stripe.
After entering the second half with a 28-22 lead, the Badgers held onto the six-point advantage for most of the half until Butch got hot and hit two of his four 3-pointers during a 1:43 stretch. Hughes then sealed the deal with four-straight free throws in the final two minutes. The Spartans return home to host Indiana on March 2 at 1 p.m. CT.
Wisconsin has the next six days off and will return to action on Wednesday, March 5 when Penn State comes to town. After Penn State, the Badgers close out their season at Northwestern on March 8. Wednesdays game against PSU will be shown live on the Big Ten Network as well as broadcast on the Badger Radio Network. The Badgers beat the Nittany Lions 80-55 earlier this year in University Park, Pa.
Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan
On Wisconsins one turnover: Thats too many. We got on Joe (Krabbenhoft) in the locker room, his teammates did. He got an offensive rebound and put the ball down and it disappeared. How many times do you see a game with a team with one turnover against a team that plays pretty good defense and will get in your shorts. I dont know what else you can say. Statistics always speak in a loud tone but Ive never coached in a game where thats happened, never defensively to another team, or another team defensively to us doing the same thing. I dont know if its ever happened. But our guys do value the ball.
On Wisconsins defensive effort: I really liked our effort. I think they had some looks that Im sure when I look at the tape, Ill remind some guys about maybe missing on a chase or a hedge opportunity or whatever. It seemed to me that they had some looks that werent going down and we werent going to ask why when youre playing. We know how well (Drew) Neitzel can shoot the ball and what they have and I think sometimes you just have these types of games. We never get too high or too low after a game one way or the other. I just liked our consistency defensively and the fact that we limited some things, but we can do a better job.
On the run in the second half with Brian Butchs two three pointers: If Brian doesnt hit those two threes, thats probably still a three or four possession game. But when Brian did hit those, it opened it up and obviously you have to maybe get a little quicker on the other end offensively and maybe there are some shots going out that were somewhat rushed, I dont know. I dont know what happens to the other team, I just know what happened to us was once we got to the point where we could make it to the free throw line, and we could get into the two shot and we hit those threes, that cushion in there gave us something to play with. I thought our guys did a very good job of that, to have your three guards not commit a turnover. To have those three guys, (Jason) Bohannon, (Michael) Flowers and (Trevon) Hughes to not have a turnover, thats huge.
Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo
Opening comments: We had a couple of missed assignments when [Brian] Butch hit some of those threes. I was disappointed because we had gone over that. Then we just didnt make shots. Our two best players didnt make shots. [Wisconsin] did a good job defensively, but we had some open looks too. Im not disappointed in the effort. I felt like everything we went over we did, we just couldnt make a shot. I dont think the score was indicitive of the game, and yet they found a way to win and that is whats important.
On Wisconsins committing just one turnover: They did a good job at that. They didnt turn it over. To be honest, we were playing inside-out so we didnt put any real pressure on them on the perimeter on purpose. We felt we had to take away the block because they go to the free throw line so much. That was one thing we wanted to do, keep them off the line, and for the most part we did that. The one turnover doesnt bother me. It was great for them, but theres a reason we did not put much pressure out there.
On Drew Neitzels tough game: There were some good shots for him at the top of the key and a couple that he should have just pulled up on. I feel for the kid on that. Thats not him. If you look at everything else in our game plan, we did a pretty good job, but our two best scorers couldnt score. That makes a big difference.