The Michigan State Spartans lost a heartbreaker in Madison, WI, by a score of 77-76 Sunday afternoon. MSU had their chances, but in the end, it was fouls, mistakes, and a last second shot by an All-American player that didn’t go down for the Spartans.
Ethan Happ, who missed two free throws late in the game to reduce Michigan State’s gap, ended up getting the go-ahead and game-winning bucket with 10.2 seconds remaining for the Badgers. With three timeouts remaining, MSU head coach Tom Izzo decided to let his All-American SF Denzel Valentine play the game out for the win. Valentine launched a three pointer that missed off the back iron, and a Matt Costello fade-away jumper didn’t go down as time expired. Michigan State lost their second consecutive game of the season, this one in spectacularly heartbreaking fashion.
The Spartans were without their one true point guard on the roster, Tum Tum Nairn Jr., as it was announced prior to the game that he would be out indefinitely due to plantar fasciitis in his foot. With that news, Matt McQuaid got his first career start at point guard, joining Eron Harris, Valentine, Deyonta Davis and Matt Costello as the starting five for Michigan State.
The first half didn’t go as planned for MSU, as the Badgers closed the half on a 10-0 run to take a 41-36 lead over the Spartans. But like all Tom Izzo teams usually do, they responded in the second half, taking the lead with under 5 minutes left.
Big players make big time plays in big time games. And that’s what Denzel Valentine, Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes all did for their respective teams. Valentine used finesse as he hit a couple floaters down the stretch, but a Bronson Koenig three pointer with under a minute left and a couple Nigel Hayes jumpers kept Wisconsin in the game, and ultimately were the difference in the game for the now 10-9 Badgers.
After Koenig’s three, Greg Gard called a timeout to set up the defense, and it worked. The MSU inbounds pass went to Eron Harris, who was trapped in the corner. He eventually stepped out of bounds and turned the ball over to the Badgers with under 30 seconds remaining. That is when Happ’s lay up went down, and after Valentine and Costello missed their shots for the Spartans, the game was decided.
The game’s officiating was a topic of controversy throughout the game, especially on Twitter:
You get a free throw and you get a free throw. Like an episode of Oprah.
— Hondo Carpenter (@HondoCarpenter) January 17, 2016
EVERYTHING IS A FOUL AGAINST MICHIGAN STATE
— austen (@AustenJones4) January 17, 2016
These refs are killing the game of basketball
— Ryan Cole (@ryan_cole9) January 17, 2016
Regardless of the officiating, stellar individual performances put the Spartans in a position to win. Matt Costello arguably had the best game of his career, scoring 18 points (career-high) and grabbing 13 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season. Denzel Valentine finished with 23 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, his best game since coming back from arthroscopic knee surgery.
For the Badgers, Bronson Koenig finished with 27 points (career-high) and Nigel Hayes finished with 25 points in the win.
Michigan State (16-3) now looks to get back in the win column on Wednesday against the Nebraska Cornhuskers (11-8). The new AP poll will come out this week as well, and with two more losses to Big Ten opponents, the Spartans will most likely fall outside the top 10 and possibly the top 15.
This week, with the two losses, could be the turning point for Michigan State’s season. Its up to them whether or not they make it into a positive or a negative.