Badgers hand Spartans first Big Ten defeat
Taylor scored 17 points and Jason Bohannon added 19 to lead Wisconsin to a 67-49 victory over No. 5 Michigan State on Tuesday night, snapping a perfect Big Ten start for the Spartans, who lost leading scorer Kalin Lucas to an ankle injury midway through the second half.
“That’s part of our program, part of coach’s philosophy,” Taylor said. “If (Trevon) and Jon are out, you’ve got to go with what’s next, and somebody’s got to step up and make plays. We try and stay aggressive and try and make something happen.”
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who improved to 21-7 at home against Top 25 teams in his nine seasons, said he has never judged players on their size. Good thing, because Leuer has at least 9 inches on Taylor, depending on who is asked.
“I always say (Taylor’s) 5-10. He gets mad, he says, ‘Coach, I’m 6-1.’ We replaced a 6-10 with a 5-10 in his stocking feet,” Ryan said. “He’s just smart, he just finds ways to get things done. And he cares, he cares about the ball and he cares about game. Whenever you take care of the ball, you’re respecting the game.”
The Badgers committed just five turnovers, four less than their NCAA lowest average of 9.4, and Wisconsin (17-5, 7-3) won its third game over a team ranked sixth or better this season and its 18th straight at the Kohl Center.
Michigan State had 13 turnovers.
“That’s 13 times they’re not getting a shot at the basket and only five for us, so that could be 16 to 24 points that we’re getting extra from them,” Taylor said. “You just try and make the right decision.”
Michigan State (19-4, 9-1) may have lost a lot more than its strong start after Lucas, last season’s Big Ten player of the year, came down awkwardly on the foot of Wisconsin’s Keaton Nankivil in the second half and injured his right ankle.
“When it first happened, it was hurting a lot, but I still don’t know what’s wrong with it right now,” Lucas said. “I think it’s just a sprain to the ankle, I’ll know tomorrow.”
Lucas did not return, finishing with seven points to snap a string of 33 consecutive games in double figures.
“He’s limping bad,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “It’s not a good sprain, but it’s not broke or anything like that—at least it doesn’t seem to be. I think the issue is whether he’s a fast healer or not.”
Wisconsin clicked from the beginning, getting big contributions from Nankivil and Rob Wilson. Taylor started by scoring 10 of Wisconsin’s first 13 points and later helped seal it with a 3-pointer to push the lead to 58-42 with 6 minutes to play.
The Spartans, who haven’t won in Madison since 2001, started flat before losing their floor leader. After Lucas left, Wisconsin went on a 10-2 run to seal the game.
Meanwhile, Michigan State, which got 11 points from Durrell Summers, missed seven straight shots down the stretch, going more than 6˝ minutes without a basket.
“For the most part that was an old-fashioned whoopin’,” Izzo said.
The Spartans had been off to their best conference start ever and seemed poised to run away with another regular-season Big Ten title with four weeks of league play left. But Wisconsin dominated from the tip, trailing only 1-0 before scoring nine straight points. The Spartans never got closer than eight points in the second half.
“When Lucas went down, it really compounded problems,” Izzo said. “Wisconsin played awfully well, as good as I’ve seen them play all year.”
Michigan State tried to push the tempo early despite winning the first meeting 54-47 on Jan. 6, but it backfired and Izzo said he didn’t prepare his team well. Michigan State’s players said they felt a loss coming.
“I think we all did,” guard Korie Lucious said. “In practice, we just haven’t been bringing it like we should have, we haven’t had the energy like we should have, and Coach has been telling us that for the last couple days.”
With the victory, Wisconsin joined No. 3 Syracuse as the only teams with three wins over Top 10 opponents this season, and Taylor said Ryan has helped put him and the rest of the Badgers in the right position, even if the wily old coach can’t judge height.
“That’s about the only thing,” Taylor said. “For the record, I’m 6-1 with shoes on.”