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Michigan State Basketball: The great, good, bad, ugly from Wisconsin win

MSU owned the final nine minutes to beat Wisconsin on the road.

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Michigan State basketball
© Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State basketball picks up a Quad 1 win with victory over No. 18 Wisconsin in Madison on Tuesday night.

After starting the season 5-4, Michigan State basketball has now won seven in a row, giving it an overall record of 12-4. While this run was somewhat expected simply due to the immense difficulty their season started with, it has not been easy.

This was the case, once again, in Madison on Tuesday night.

The Spartans jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first minute, when Wisconsin began to heat up from deep to bring the game back to even. the first half was mostly spent trading leads, Michigan State being on top 33-31 at the end of the first half.

The Badgers used big performances from Cody Essegian, Steven Crowl, and Chucky Hepburn to help give them their largest lead of the night of five points with just under four minutes remaining. However, the Spartan leaders took over from that point on, starting with a Malik Hall layup, and a Joey Hauser 3-pointer to retake the lead for the final time.

Michigan State finished the final six minutes on a 17- 8 run to improve to 4-1 in conference play, once again tied for first in the Big Ten.

Here are the great, good, bad, and ugly from Michigan State basketball’s seventh win in a row.

Great: Spartan’s play down the stretch

As mentioned above, twice in the second half Wisconsin matched their game high lead at five. Once, at the 5:48 mark, and again a minute later, at the 4:14 point. At the Kohl Center, especially with how Wisconsin shoots the three-ball, going down by half a dozen can mean the end for an opposing team. Michigan State, however, kept their cool down the stretch.

After a slow, almost non-existent first half, A.J. Hoggard demanded he have the ball in his hands for the final few minutes and, whether he attacked the basket himself, or set something up for Malik Hall, Joey Hauser, or Tyson Walker, he got the job done. Hoggard finished with six of the Spartans’ last eight points.

This is normally quite the opposite for Michigan State teams. In this season especially, the Spartans have a hard time making the plays to close games out but Tuesday night, they did everything right down the line. Even going 16-for-17 from the free throw line to put the game on ice.

Twenty-three points over 14 possessions in the final nine minutes equates to 1.64 points per possession. That is elite efficiency to finish the game.

Good: Carson Cooper

In a game in which Wisconsin was missing its leading scorer, a wing player, the Badgers’ Steven Crowl had to step up tremendously. He did just that against Michigan State, posting a team-high 19 points for Wisconsin. Mady Sissoko did the best he could on defense, but after needing five stitches from an elbow to the face, Carson Cooper was elected to stand in.

Cooper ended up doing more than just stand in. While Crowl’s stats did not indicate he was stopped very often, the eye test told you that Cooper did an above average job stopping the Wisconsin big man.

On top of his defense, Cooper had two rebounds, one steal, and two blocks down the stretch. From a freshman who has played very sparingly, this was a good outing for the young man.

Bad: Defense

A major reason to the recent seven-game winning streak for the Spartans has been their defense. Holding teams to just under 58 points per game over this stretch would be second in the Big Ten in average points allowed per game. MSU began its game in Madison continuing this trend for the first few minutes, but eventually, Wisconsin found the shots they wanted. Improving to 39 percent from deep and 45.5 percent total, the Badgers did not find much difficulty scoring.

During the second half, it seemed that Wisconsin had a perfect game plan against Sissoko as he was absolutely unable to return back to his man after a high key pick and roll. Repeatedly, they were able to drop the ball down low as Mady trailed behind, or, if help was provided by one of Michigan State’s wing players, they kicked out and a subsequent 3-pointer was imminent. The Spartans caught a break when Chucky Hepburn took an ill-advised heat check deep three as the game came to an end, bailing the MSU defense out quite a bit.

Walker did a good job eliminating Connor Essegian for much of the second half, but the defense will need to be improved if their winning streak is to continue.

Ugly: Turnovers

Because of the somewhat slower pace that this Spartans team has played with, the turnovers this season have been limited compared to past Izzo-led teams. That, however, was not the case Tuesday night against Wisconsin. Turnovers for the Spartans were found aplenty, finishing at 14 for the game. Their season average now sits at 11.2 per game. Not only did this increased number disrupt the offensive flow for MSU, Wisconsin took full advantage of the Spartans’ carelessness, finishing with 27 points off turnovers.

Limiting the turnovers to even their season average completely changes the game. Michigan State basketball did a fantastic job rebounding the ball, almost doubling Wisconsin’s 18 rebounds at 33, they just had a difficult time holding onto the rock there after.

Writer and contributor for Spartan Shadows. Tyler Dutton, a graduate of Michigan State, is a college and professional basketball specialist with over four years of experience writing on both the Spartans and Pistons.

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