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Spartans stage comeback in front of '79 champs

MSU keeps 1-game Big Ten lead with win over Wisconsin

February 22, 2009

Sophomore guards Kalin Lucas, left, and Chris Allen celebrate on the court after Lucas made a three-point shot late in the second half of Sunday’s game against Wisconsin at Breslin Center. After being behind for most of the game the Spartans defeated the Badgers 61-50.

Photo by Angeli Wright | The State News

With 12:31 remaining and his team trailing Wisconsin 41-29, MSU head coach Tom Izzo called a 30-second timeout with a very simple message for his team — play defense.

The sixth-ranked Spartans did as their coach asked, outscoring the Badgers 32-9 the rest of the way to win 61-50 on Sunday at Breslin Center.

“He told us we needed to D-up,” sophomore guard Kalin Lucas said of Izzo’s message during the timeout. “We needed to get some stops on the defensive end, and it all started with (senior guard Travis Walton).”

Walton, who began the game guarding Wisconsin’s Joe Krabbenhoft (two points), switched to guard Trevon Hughes at halftime and held him to just two free throws in what Izzo described as an “unbelievable” effort.

Lucas led MSU (21-5 overall, 11-3 Big Ten) on the offensive end with a game-high 17 points. Senior center Goran Suton scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and had 10 rebounds, while freshman forward Delvon Roe added six points and eight rebounds.

Hughes and forward Marcus Landry had 12 and 11 points, respectively, to lead Wisconsin, which fell to 17-10 overall and 8-7 in conference play.

Coming out of the timeout midway through the second half, the Spartans turned up their defensive pressure, forcing the Badgers into an eight-minute drought without a field goal. During that span, MSU slowly crept back into the game, and a turnaround jumper by Suton tied the game at 45 with five minutes to go.

“I wasn’t very happy with him for 35 minutes, if you want the truth,” Izzo said of Suton. “I was really disappointed with him, too. I told him to go inside and he was jacking up threes.

“I don’t know why he decided to go inside, if it was me explaining it to him, threatening him. I told Walton that if he didn’t get it to him inside I was going to threaten him, and that was a big difference.”

With the score at 49-47, Walton stole the ball from Hughes and threw it up to sophomore guard Chris Allen, who hit MSU’s first 3-pointer of the game. With 2:39 remaining and MSU holding a 52-47 lead, Wisconsin was forced to take a timeout.

Wisconsin missed a 3-pointer coming out of the break and Lucas came down the court and hit a 3-pointer of his own, giving the Spartans a 55-47 lead with less than two minutes to go.

“The two threes couldn’t have come at a better time for them,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “Six points on two possessions really can stick a dagger in.”

The Spartans outrebounded Wisconsin 37-25 after holding a plus-four margin (19-15) at halftime.

MSU hosts Iowa at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Spartans beat the Hawkeyes 71-56 on Jan. 29 in Iowa City, Iowa.

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