If there were ever any doubts about who would take the final shot for Wisconsin they were put to rest Sunday afternoon.
It was Déjà Vu at the Kohl Center as, just like a week ago against Ohio State, Wisconsin would have the final possession with a chance to win, but that was where the similarities ended.
This time, Traevon Jackson got a clean look off of a screen, took his patented lefty-jumper from the elbow and lifted Wisconsin (19-5, 6-5 Big Ten) over No. 9 Michigan State (20-4, 9-2) 60-58.
Though Jackson didn’t find success in a similar situation last week and he had only made two baskets before Wisconsin’s final possession, head coach Bo Ryan still had confidence in his junior point guard to make something happen.
“He’s the guy that earned that spot and he proved it last year with some big plays,” Ryan said. “His decision making has been a little sporadic at times, but in a last second situation if it starts in his hands, I feel very confident we are going to get something.”
For Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, there was no doubt as to whom he thought was going to take that shot for Wisconsin.
“I’ve watched two years worth of Jackson making game-winning shots, so I put my best defender on him and give the guy credit. He made another one,” Izzo said.
The Badgers were forced to take a game-winning shot in their final possession because Michigan State’s Adreian Payne hit a three at the top of the key with just 10 seconds left.
With some key players out for the Spartans — Keith Appling and Branden Dawson who both average over 10 points per game — Payne was forced to carry the brunt of the load offensively for Michigan State. In just his second game back after missing seven-straight games due to an injured foot, Payne responded with a game-high 24 points in 32 minutes, but none bigger than his long-range basket in the waning seconds.
“We executed that last 3-pointer as well as we’ve executed any play in 10 years,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “Give Payne credit. He hit a big shot being dead tired.”
Before things tightened up in the final minutes, Wisconsin was able to build an eight point lead (30-22) heading into halftime after Michigan State failed to score in the final 6:49 of the first half and allowing Wisconsin to go on an 11-0 run.
The Spartans’ offensive drought gave the Badgers a cushion that proved to be the difference at the end.
“I think the game was more or less lost in the end of the first half,” Izzo said. “We didn’t score in six minutes and they went on an 11-0 run. We just had so many guys on the bench in foul trouble and some guys in there that couldn’t guard this table. That’s disappointing.”
Other than Payne, the Spartans struggled to find any rhythm offensively as Travis Trice was the only other Spartan to hit double figures while sophomore guard Gary Harris, who leads the Big Ten in scoring with 18.2 points per game, went 3-for-20 from the field and 0-for-7 from beyond the arc in a 6-point effort.
Harris entered the second half having not made a shot and was 0-for -10 from the floor before he made back-to-back transition dunks in less than 30 seconds with just over 17 minutes left in the game. But, that would be the highlight of Harris’ day as he struggled to score for the rest of the game.
It was a different story for Wisconsin who has two players trending up in terms of recent offensive performance.
Sam Dekker, who struggled with his shot before netting 16 in his last outing against Illinois, hit the first shot of the game with a shot from outside the arc. From there Dekker went on to put up 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from three-point range.
But it was freshman forward Nigel Hayes that was the epitome of consistency on the offensive end for the Badgers, hitting mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper and drawing fouls around the rim, prompting coach Ryan to proclaim “Nigel is pretty special.”
Wisconsin’s win over Michigan State snapped a five-game losing streak to the Spartans and a three-game losing streak at home.
Dekker knows the win over the Spartans will give a little bit of “mojo” back to his team that has been reeling for the last couple of weeks.
“It was a pretty sour taste,” Dekker said of Wisconsin’s three-game home losing streak. “You take a lot of pride in playing in from of [the fans], and you want to go out and perform as well as you can for them, and we weren’t doing that. So this is big to get back to our winning ways and get that little mojo back in the Kohl Center.