February 3, 2010

Badgers thump MSU, end Spartans' streak

MADISON - Trevon Hughes played the first three minutes of Tuesday's rivalry game against Michigan State before riding the bench for the remainder of the opening half after picking up his second personal foul.

With the way Wisconsin played in his absence, they didn't really need him.

Sophomore guard Jordan Taylor exploded out of the gates and scored 10 of UW's first 13 points and Jason Bohannon chipped in 12 of his eventual 19 points in the first half as the Badgers jumped on the previously unbeaten Spartans and cruised to an impressive 67-49 win.

The victory marked the first time in over 20 years that the Badgers had beaten three different top five ranked teams in one season.

"That was an old-fashioned whooping," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said following the loss. "They came out and really took it to us early and made a lot of shots. I didn't feel that we checked very well, but they deserve the credit. They made a lot of shots.

"Especially Taylor and Bohannon early."

If there were any questions regarding UW's response following a difficult and heartbreaking loss at Purdue last week, it didn't take long for the Badgers to answer.

Wisconsin started the game on a 16-6 run that saw the Badgers make five of their first eight shots, four of which came from downtown.

During the same stretch, the Spartans only made two buckets and committed three turnovers in the first four and a half minutes that laid the foundation for the Badgers to expand upon.

"Some games we can't buy a bucket early," UW head coach Bo Ryan, who's record against Michigan State at home improved to 7-0 and 12-5 overall. "Some games you get on a little run. You just have to stay even-keeled with your players and the players have to stay that way.

"The players have to believe that if we can get an open look we're going to shoot it."

Michigan State eventually started finding ways to score against Wisconsin's tenacious defense and cut the Badger lead down to seven. From that point on, UW went on a 15-5 run to blow open a game that would never really get close again.

During that deciding stretch, Izzo, who stated after the game that he didn't feel like he prepared his team well enough entering the game, thought about calling a timeout. But that never happened and the Badgers continued to ride the home crowd wave of momentum.

"I thought about it a couple of times," Izzo said. "But I also wanted to see if my team could play out of some things right now too because we were not doing the things we needed to do. I thought our two wing guys were just very average defensively.

"I thought about it but didn't do it. As I already admitted, it was a poorly-coached job by me."

Without Hughes in the lineup for the majority of the opening 20 minutes, UW expanded its lead by not committing turnovers (UW finished the game with just five) and hitting 51 percent of its shots for the game.

Sophomore guard Rob Wilson, who seems to be gaining more confidence with each and every possession, scored 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting and Keaton Nankivil followed up his 25-point outburst at Purdue with a solid 11-point, five-rebound effort against the Spartans.

"We had guys step up," Bohannon, who hit eight of his 15 shots said. "Rob came into the game and gave us some great minutes tonight. Keaton hit some big shots. It was just up and down the line there are guys stepping up and filling different roles every given night. When you have a team like that that has guys that are capable of doing that, it's a very big factor and very beneficial."

The starting guards for UW combined to dish 13 assists to only two turnovers. Hughes, though he only played 24 minutes, distributed seven helpers while only coughing up the rock once.

Taylor, who leads the nation in assists to turnovers had four assists to only one turnovers and Bohannon chipped in two assists of his own.

Over the past six games, Taylor has accounted for 27 assists and only three turnovers, good for a remarkable 9-to-1 assist to turnover ratio.

At the same time UW's defense, which has been suffocating for most of the season, forced MSU into 13 turnovers and only 11 assists.

Izzo claimed that Wisconsin's performance in the 18-point win was the best he has seen UW play this season. Ryan didn't seem to disagree.

"I would say we played pretty well," Ryan said. "In order to beat a team like that you have to play well. In all fairness, I always give credit to the players. I thought the players did a great job at taking care of the ball again, getting us opportunities on the offensive, and defensively, making it difficult for them to get the looks that they've been beating a lot of people with this year."

In addition to losing its first conference game of the season, the Spartans may have lost their best player for a considerable amount of time.

With just under 11 minutes left to play, Kalin Lucas rose up for a jumper at the top of the key and landed awkwardly on Nankivil's foot. The Spartans leader stayed on the Kohl Center court for a number of minutes before he was eventually carried of the court.

Initial reports say Lucas suffered a sprained ankle.

"I felt him land on it," Nankivil said. "But I didn't know if he got up or not. So we went down. We're going to play until the whistle blows, but I hope he's alright. I don't know exactly what happened to him, but I wish him all the best."

In the end, it was a game UW absolutely needed to have if it wanted to remain a player in the conference title race. Currently, the Badgers sit two games back from Michigan State along with a few other teams with three conference losses. But with a month left in the regular season, anything is possible.

"That's obviously a big win," Taylor said. "That's their first loss and puts us back into contention I think. They've still got a tough schedule…We just got to keep winning a see how it plays out."

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