Slow offensive start dooms No. 17 Spartans, fall to No. 14 Wisconsin 70-62


MSU forward Malik Hall (25) stands next to point guard A.J. Hoggard during the Spartans’ 71-69 win over Minnesota on Jan. 12, 2021/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Trent Balley, Sports Editor

EAST LANSING – The No. 17 Michigan State Spartans were in need of a bounce-back win on Tuesday at home against the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers. They were unable to get it, thanks in large part to a sluggish offensive start, as the Badgers took advantage for the 70-62 road win.

MSU coach Tom Izzo was quick to take the lion’s share of the blame in the loss.

“That was a poor coaching job,” Izzo said. “The team wasn’t ready to play and we got punked from the very beginning.”

The first phase of the game was a defensive fight. The Spartans missed their first six shot attempts before a Joey Hauser baseline drive put the Spartans on the board. Luckily for them, they held the Badgers to just 2-for-9 from the floor at the under-16 media timeout.

Marcus Bingham Jr. tried to kickstart the home offense with an and-one finish followed by another trip to the line after he was fouled midair on an alley-oop attempt from Tyson Walker. His team’s woes continued, however, as the Spartans were held to only eight points in the first nearly-12 minutes.

“We took a lot of average shots, and you can’t do that against a good, solid defensive team,” Izzo said.

MSU guard Tyson Walker calms down Tom Izzo after he gets a technical during the No. 11 Spartans’ 90-78 win over Oakland on Dec. 21, 2021/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Who broke the ice? It was the one Izzo calls his team’s “stabilizer,” Malik Hall. He knocked down a turnaround mid-range jumper and got fouled, converting the 3-point play to finally give the Spartans double digits on the board as Wisconsin led 16-11 with 8:08 in the half.

That score would hold all the way until the 5:28 mark, as the two offenses continued to struggle. The Spartans went on a bit of a flurry over the next three minutes, however, featuring a strong Bingham hook over Brad Davison. But just when it looked like the Spartans could get things going, Lorne Bowman knocked down a corner 3-pointer for the Badgers as the shot clock expired, and MSU’s Max Christie was whistled for an offensive foul on the other end.

Wisconsin’s Chucky Hepburn connected from deep with 12 seconds to play in the half to put his Badgers ahead 29-21. On the Spartans’ final possession before halftime, Bingham rose up for a deep two at the buzzer and banked it home to pull his Spartans within six points at the break. He was easily the Spartans’ best player in the first half, with 11 points in 11 minutes, and no other Spartan scoring more than three.

For the Badgers, it was Johnny Davis leading the way with seven points at the half. One thing the Spartans did an exceptional job of in the first half was defending Davison, holding the 15-points-per-game scorer to zero points on 0-for-6 shooting.

Ironically, Davison’s first bucket came shortly into the second half, a 3-pointer from the top to put his team up by 10. The Spartans’ saving grace was back-to-back threes from Hall and Gabe Brown to keep them within striking distance, down six points at the under-16 media timeout.

A momentum-shifting sequence came with 12:27 to play, as Hall was whistled for a questionable shooting foul on a Bowman drive. Izzo was furious, and Bowman missed both free throws to ignite the Breslin Center crowd.

A couple of possessions later, Hall slammed home a wide open, two-handed jam to pull the Spartans within three points. 

MSU forward Maliq Carr checks into the game and high-fives Malik Hall during the Spartans’ 83-67 win over Michigan on Jan. 29, 2022/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Davis really started to have his way in the second half, however, pouring in points at almost every time it seemed the Badgers needed them most. He finished the game with 18 second-half points for a total of 25. He delivered what felt like the final nail in MSU’s coffin with a contested finish at the rim, putting the Badgers up 10 with 1:46 to play.

The Spartans made things interesting in their final possessions, looking for quick offense while playing the quick foul game on defense and hoping for missed Badger free throws. But ultimately, it was too little, too late as the Spartans dropped their second in a row.

Bingham finished with 15 points, but was held blockless, a rare occurrence for the senior big man who is averaging nearly three blocks per game and is inching toward a program record for total blocks. Hall also chipped in 12 points, while Hauser added eight points and eight boards.

One area the Spartans lacked greatly in was point guard play. Walker and A.J. Hoggard combined for a dismal 2-for-11 from the field.

“Our guards have to realize that they’re in there to do other things (than score),” Izzo said. “That’s how you run a team.”

They’ll look to bounce back Saturday as they welcome the Indiana Hoosiers to East Lansing.

You can follow Trent Balley on Twitter at @TrentBalley.