EAST LANSING— Michigan State (6-2) was back in action on Christmas Day for the first time in school history and looking to rebound after a disappointing 79-65 loss to Northwestern on Dec. 20.
However, despite a career-high 27 points from Joey Hauser, the Spartans were unable to knock off the No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers, who won their first game at the Breslin Center since 2004 by an 85-76 margin.
The Badgers were led by senior guard D’Mitrik Trice and his 29 points. Badger forward Aleem Ford chipped in with 13 points; Micah Potter and Brad Davison also scored in double-figures.
“Trice has a calming effect on the team, and I give him a ton of credit for what he’s done with this team,” Izzo said.
Hauser led the Spartans in scoring with 27 points. Aaron Henry chipped in with 12 points and six rebounds as well as three assists.
With the loss, the Spartans dropped to 0-2 in conference play for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
In the first half, the Badgers started out with four early turnovers despite starting an all-senior starting lineup. The Spartans would match Wisconsin blow-for-blow early, and both teams began to score with relative ease. MSU would jump out ahead 24-21 courtesy of an Aaron Henry and-1 chance, however, a pair of 3-pointers from Potter and Trice would push the Badger lead to 27-24.
Both teams would trade buckets as the half wound down; a deep Foster Loyer 3-pointer tied the game at 42 going into halftime.
Hauser led the Spartans with 11 points at half. Despite shooting 59% from the floor, Wisconsin’s deep shooting attack prevented MSU from building a substantial lead. The Badgers were led in scoring through one by Trice, who had 11 points.
“I thought the defense wasn’t awful, but we only played pretty good against a great team,” Izzo said.”
After jumping out to a 51-42 lead, the Spartans saw their lead vanish after Trice scored 13 points in a row within a three-minute period.
Joey Hauser would keep the Spartans in the game with 16 second-half points, but Trice, combined with foul trouble and poor defense, proved to be too much for the Spartans to overcome. Wisconsin, who came into today’s contest knocking down nearly 42% of their 3-pointers, went 8-for-19 from beyond the long line today.
“We made a million strides from our loss at Northwestern, and we played pretty good,” Izzo said. “The problem is pretty good doesn’t beat great teams, and Wisconsin will be a top-five team in the country.”
Trice finished with 29 points and four 3-pointers. He catapulted the Badgers’ offensive shooting attack to a 51.9% overall mark from the floor.
Friday’s game was the third time in a row where an opposing team has shot at least 50% from the floor. Northwestern shot nearly 53% against MSU, and Oakland shot an even 50%.
Aaron Henry and Rocket Watts combined for only 17 points on 7-of-22 shooting. Watts went only 2-for-9 from the floor, and Henry committed seven turnovers. Joshua Langford also struggled from the floor, as he went 3-of-9.
Despite the dominant play of Joey Hauser, it seemed that Thomas Kithier impressed Izzo the most.
“Thomas Kithier is really good at doing the little things, and we definitely need to get it more to him. We started him because he’s the steadiest player at that position, but we only played him 12 minutes,” Izzo said.
Kithier scored a season-high eight points to go along with five rebounds, four of which were on the offensive glass.
Overall, Izzo was encouraged by the Spartans’ performance, despite the narrow loss.
“We made a million strides from our loss at Northwestern and we played pretty good,” Izzo said. “The problem is pretty good doesn’t beat great teams, and Wisconsin will be a top-five team in the country.”
The Spartans will look to notch their first conference win of the year when they square off against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis on Dec. 28.