It might be panic time in Madison.
Wisconsin blew a shot at first place in the Big Ten for a second straight game on Sunday, losing 84-74 to Michigan State in East Lansing. It was the Badgers’ fourth loss in five games and their 10th straight setback at the Breslin Center.
Things didn’t start well for the Badgers. Michigan State spent a good chunk of the first half on a 20-7 run, eventually building a 34-21 lead. The “Nigel” chants were in full force at MSU, alluding to Hayes’ disastrous performance there one year ago. The Badgers looked lost on offense and the Spartans were scoring any way they pleased.
And then, a pulse. Hayes and Ethan Happ found their way back into the flow of the offense and led a 16-4 run to pull Wisconsin within one heading into halftime.
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) February 26, 2017
A close second half turned ugly for the Badgers when Michigan State broke off a 13-1 run to take a 63-51 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining. Wisconsin managed to cut the lead to six on Bronson Koenig’s 3-pointer with less than four minutes remaining, but the Spartans managed to hold off any further rally.
Why Michigan State won
The Wisconsin defense faltered again, allowing 80 points or more for a second straight game after doing so only once the entire season. It didn’t help that Wisconsin’s well-maligned free-throw shooting reared its head again, as the Badgers were only 13-of-25 from the charity stripe.
#Badgers have given up at least 80 points in back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time since 1993.
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) February 26, 2017
What it means
Wisconsin was given a mulligan to stay in first place in the Big Ten after its loss to Ohio State, thanks to Purdue’s loss to Michigan on Saturday. But the Badgers managed to shank this one, too. They’ll now need a Purdue loss to either Indiana or Northwestern, and that’s assuming Wisconsin wins out.
They kept chanting his name and he kept scoring. Hayes redeemed his 1-for-13 shooting line at the Breslin Center last season with a 22-point peformance on much-improved 9-of-22 shooting. He chipped in 11 rebounds and four assists.
The bench. The Badgers’ second unit was outscored 30-10 by Michigan State and combined for 3-of-7 shooting. Happ wasn’t great either, fouling out scoring only 8 points. At some point we have to wonder if the burden of expectations on him is unfair.
Who was there
He wasn’t there for the Badgers, but 4-star forward Joey Hauser, one of Wisconsin’s top Class of 2018 targets, was on hand to check out the game. The Stevens Point native is widely seen as Marquette’s to lose, but the two teams with the best chance to swipe him away were likely playing at the Breslin Center on Sunday.
Michigan State's 2018 commits, Thomas Kithier & Foster Loyer, are at the Breslin. Four-star forwards Joey Hauser, Brandon Johns here as well
— Luke Srodulski (@lsrodulski) February 26, 2017
Who is next
Wisconsin will welcome Iowa to the Kohl Center for its penultimate game of the regular season on Thursday. The Hawkeyes broke out of a 3-6 slump with a pair of encouraging wins in the past week, beating Indiana 96-90 in overtime before crushing Maryland 83-69 on the road. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT on ESPN.