EAST LANSING, Mich. — Like many of their losses this season, especially those during the team’s six-game losing streak in January, the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team struggled down the stretch in Sunday’s game.
After jumping out to a 12-point lead on a Marcus Landry 3-pointer that capped a 10-0 run by UW, the Badgers struggled the rest of the way, hitting just two shots from the floor over the last 12 minutes and 21 seconds of play.
“We had that many?” UW head coach Bo Ryan said of the two field goals. “We missed some shots around the basket. So, we don’t counter some of that action that they were doing with getting a run together.”
Wisconsin missed nine of 11 shots following the Landry three, with each of the two made buckets coming from Landry in the last four minutes of the game.
At the same time, Michigan State caught fire, hitting 11-of-16 shots during Wisconsin’s scoring drought, en route to a 32-9 run to end the ball game.
The two biggest shots for the Spartans came in the last three minutes when guards Chris Allen and Kalin Lucas hit from beyond the arc on consecutive possessions, giving MSU an eight-point lead with just under two minutes to play in the game.
“The two threes couldn’t have come at a better time for them,” Ryan said. “Six points on two possessions really can stick a dagger in you … especially if we’re not getting something at the other end.”
Allen and Lucas’ threes were the only two successful attempts from beyond the arc in the game for Michigan State. The Spartans were 0-for-7 before that point, something which struck a nerve with head coach Tom Izzo.
“We just couldn’t make a shot, and I thought we really got impatient and just started jacking up shots,” Izzo said. “At halftime, we said, ‘We’ve got to go inside with it,’ and we cut the [lead] to two and we started jacking up threes again, and that was disappointing.” Michigan State was fueled in its run by Goran Suton off the bench, who scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half. Additionally, all 14 of those points for Suton came in the last 12 minutes and 22 seconds of play as Wisconsin struggled to find the hoop.
The 6-foot-10-inch center also made an impact on the boards in the second half, pulling down seven rebounds, including three on the offensive glass, after grabbing just three total rebounds in the first half. Much like his second-half points, all seven of Suton’s second-half rebounds came in the last 10 minutes of play.
Herzog makes rare start, scores on only shot
In Michigan State’s last game, every Spartan player saw the floor, except for one. That one was redshirt sophomore center Tom Herzog. The 7-foot Flint, Mich., native never got off the bench in the game, despite the significant disparity in points between the two teams.
When Izzo realized his mistake, he felt awful and was determined to make it up to Herzog.
“It was my mistake,” Izzo said. “[Herzog] has worked so hard and has been in here every day, so I apologized to him and told him I was going to start him in the next game.”
Though Herzog didn’t make a huge impact on the stat sheet — he managed just two points in three minutes of play — his opportunity to start became something to rally around for the rest of his team, especially during the opening introductions.
“If you would have seen how they were pulling for him in the introduction of the players, I was kind of like ‘Wow,'” Izzo said. “That’s kind of telling about a team, too, that they cared enough and they understood.”
In the end, though he was not sure going into the game how it would work out, Izzo was convinced he made the right decision.
“Some people said, ‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing?'” Izzo said. “And I said, ‘No, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know what’s right,’ so that’s what I did.”