EAST LANSING, Mich. — No. 12 Michigan State was reeling after a loss on the road to Northwestern. Joey Hauser and Rocket Watts combined for 10 points in the loss.
Then a Christmas Day matchup with No. 9 Wisconsin was right around the corner. Michigan State hadn't started 0-2 in the Big Ten in more than a decade.
Wisconsin was hoping to extend their conference-best winning streak against Big Ten opponents to 10 games.
On a day where everyone is in high spirits, the Spartan basketball team was gifted a loss as a resilient Wisconsin team rode the back of guard D'Mitrik Trice who scored 29 points and a Nate Reuvers block with :39 to play that silenced MSU's hopes of a comeback in a 85-76 win.
"Well, there's part of me that was pleased and part of me that was very, very disappointed," Head Coach Tom Izzo said after the game.
The highlight of Trice's night, coming with 14:08 to play, was an and-one three-pointer from deep behind the arc that helped revive the Badgers after Michigan State opened up the second half with a 9-0 run to take a 51-42 lead.
The shot, which gave his 20th point of the afternoon at that point in the game, cut the Spartans' lead to 53-50 as the Badgers outscored MSU 43-34 in the second half.
Trice scored 13 straight to start the second half for Wisconsin and went 11-of-15 from the free-throw line in the game.
A 42-42 game at the break, Wisconsin overcame four turnovers in the first 2:12 of play to only cough it up once more in the first half. A flurry of jump shots from veteran leaders Trice, Brad Davison and center Micah Potter buoyed the Badgers offense all game as the trio combined for 48 points in the game.
Hauser, who scored 27 points on 7-of-9 shooting in the game, was a force early and often. A deep three-pointer from the right side of the three-point line with 4:08 left in the first half capitalized his strong start in a game that means a little more to the Stevens Point, Wisconsin native.
"It was disappointing," Hauser said. "One of the best teams in our league and in the country right now. So, we were in there for most of the game, and I don't think we played exceptionally well, especially on the defensive end. But we played hard and we were still in the game. Had them down nine early in the second half. In terms of us growing as a team, that's (when up nine points) when we got to take advantage of that and even when we're not playing well we still got to pull out a win."
But his effort, which was resounding as the upperclassmen only scored five against Northwestern in his last game, proved to be futile as the Badgers pulled away late for the win.
MSU's second-leading scorer was Aaron Henry who finished with 12 points but had seven turnovers.
Michigan State (6-2, 0-2 Big Ten) began a stretch of five games in 14 days on Christmas and will head north to play Minnesota on Dec. 28. The Badgers (8-1, 2-0 Big Ten) will face Maryland in Madison on Dec. 28.
"We still got some issues," Izzo said. "But we made some definite strides."
Back and forth game proves to be the theme
Davison thought Wisconsin had the lead secured into the half as he came off a screen to catch the ball and rise up for a three-point shot. Bang. It wasn't anything new to the guard who's played in 106 games over his four years with the Badgers.
The clock kept running and MSU guard Foster Loyer quickly raced down the court and stepped into a pull-up jump shot from three feet behind the three-point line to swing the momentum back in MSU's favor, 42-42.
MSU rattled off six straight, then Wisconsin would answer with seven of their own. It was a pendulum that swung too and fro as both teams couldn't manage to pull away even after MSU opened the second half with a 9-0 run that began with a Joshua Langford three.
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Neither team could seem to pull away all game Friday until the final 4:03 in the game when Wisconsin made seven of their last nine attempts from the field.
Both teams shot above 47% from the field in the ball game. For every call MSU made, Wisconsin answered. It was a classic outcome between the two teams as four of the last six matchups between the two squads have been decided by single digits dating back to February 2018.
MSU falls to 0-2 in conference to start Big Ten play
For the second time since the 2005-06 season, when MSU opened up Big Ten play with back-to-back losses to Illinois and coincidentally, Wisconsin as the No. 7 ranked team in the country, Michigan State has started winless through two games in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin got its first win at the Breslin Center after losing 12 in a row dating back to 2004.
So, this game had a lot on the line as Wisconsin strengthened its grip on the top of the Big Ten standings with a win over an AP-ranked foe. MSU, despite strong performances from many who struggled in the loss at Northwestern, will have a tough climb out of the bottom of the Big Ten standings.
Michigan State tied Penn State as the only two teams, as of Christmas, with an 0-2 record in the Big Ten.
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