No. 14 Michigan State used a dominant first half to take a commanding lead on No. 8 Wisconsin and then held off a rally from the Badgers to secure an 86-74 road win on Friday night. The Spartans (15-3, 6-1 Big Ten) secured sole possession of first place in the league standings with the win following Illinois' loss at Maryland earlier in the evening.
The Badgers (15-3, 6-2) had won seven straight and 13 of their last 14 entering the matchup and were promoted to the projected No. 1 seed line for the NCAA Tournament in Jerry Palm's Bracketology hours before the defeat. But with junior forward Tyler Wahl out due to an ankle injury after averaging 17.8 points in his last four games, the Badgers struggled to keep up with a hot-shooting Spartans' squad.
Michigan State shot 57% from the floor in the first half while taking a 42-26 lead and then reclaimed momentum after Johnny Davis made a layup with 10:11 to bring the Badgers within 58-52. Spartans' coach Tom Izzo called a timeout after the Davis bucket, and his team promptly rattled off a 7-0 run to suck the life back out of a sold-out Kohl Center.
The win marks Michigan State's third Quad 1 victory of the season, but the first two came nearly two months ago against Loyola Chicago and UConn in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Since then, the Spartans cut their teeth against manageable competition before seeing a nine-game winning streak end against Northwestern last Saturday. Knocking off the Badgers on the road serves as validation of their legitimacy as a Big Ten title contender.
Malik Hall led Michigan State with 14 points, while A.J. Hoggard, Tyson Walker and Max Christie each contributed 12. Davis led the Badgers with 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting, while Brad Davison added 22. Michigan State's bench outscored Wisconsin's bench 43-7.