Spartans hang on late against UW

MSU takes down Badgers on road behind solid efforts from Dawson, Appling


For several weeks, MSU head coach Tom Izzo has emphasized the importance of Keith Appling putting together a consistent game from start to finish.

The junior guard has been tough to beat in crunch time, but often struggles to maintain aggressiveness for an entire contest.

On Tuesday, Izzo got a taste of exactly what he’s been looking for.

A day after officially being informed he’s a team co-captain, Appling scored 19 points to lead the No. 13 MSU basketball team (17-3 overall, 6-1 Big Ten) to a 49-47 victory against Wisconsin (13-6, 4-2).

Not to be outdone, sophomore guard/forward Branden Dawson posted his third double-double of the season with a career-high 18 points and 13 rebounds in a winning effort on the road.

It’s the first time since the 2000-01 season that the Spartans have won back-to-back games at Wisconsin’s Kohl Center.

“This is a tough place to play,” Izzo said in an interview with Spartan Sports Network after the game. “We had lost eight in a row and now we’ve won two in a row, but it was a well-earned (win). … Give our guys credit, I loved the way they were in the shootaround, I loved the way they were at the hotel, and we’re getting a little better.”

After an icy start that saw both teams miss the first nine combined shots for nearly four minutes, Wisconsin guard Ben Brust broke the seal with a 3-pointer at 16:02.

The basket was part of an 11-4 run to swing the early momentum in the Badgers’ favor.

The Spartans charged back and brought the game within a single point capped by a long bucket by sophomore guard Travis Trice near the midway point of the half.

Back-to-back 3-pointers reinflated the Wisconsin lead to 19-12.

Appling was big down the stretch in the first, draining consecutive shots, including a four-point play to knot the game at 22 apiece.

A late layup by forward Ryan Evans allowed the Badgers to carry a 28-27 lead into halftime.

Appling and Dawson combined for 21 of MSU’s 27 points in the half and paced an otherwise poor shooting performance from the field.

Dawson also added eight of his 13 rebounds in the game in the first half.

Appling continued his charge into the second half and hit a pair of jumpers to put the Spartans ahead in the opening minutes of the frame.

The teams jostled back-and-forth for position with both teams trading the lead near the midway point of the half.

After taking over the lead on an Appling jumper with 10:03 to play, the Spartans ensured the Badgers never took it back, though Wisconsin battled late to give MSU a run for its money.

Carrying a four-point lead with less than a minute to play, Evans hit a wide-open 3-pointer to bring the game to within one.

Freshman guard Gary Harris had the opportunity to put MSU ahead by three with a pair of free throws with 15 seconds remaining, but only converted one to put the Spartans up by two heading into the final possession.

Junior center Adreian Payne fouled Wisconsin’s George Marshall with three seconds to play, which sent him to the free throw line with the chance to tie.

However, Marshall missed the first and couldn’t set his team up with a chance to rebound on the second — sealing the game for the Spartans.

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