The #11 ranked Michigan State Spartans improved their record to 17-3 (6-1) with an impressive win here tonight in Madison, Wisconsin against the Badgers by score of 49 to 47. Good teams win games they should and great teams find ways to win games they shouldn’t. What do you call it when they win even when they aren’t playing well? I am not sure I am ready to call this team great, but they just won a game they shouldn’t have, when they didn’t play well.
Keith Appling and Branden Dawson were the stars of this game, with little help from their teammates. Dawson scored a career high of 18 points and had 13 rebounds. Appling added 19 points as well.
The MSU defense was suffocating. They allowed the Badgers to shoot only 30% from the field and the three point line. They shot a horrific 39% from the free throw line.
To put it simply, this win was enormous for the Spartans and when only two players were carrying the mail, the defense won this.
MSU head coach Tom Izzo said of the game, “Huge win for us against a team that has been playing really well. Just proud of my guys. I think they are just really starting to believe in each other.”
Izzo has been reluctant to credit his team for being as good as their record. Would he now? “I am not afraid of being 17-3 and saying we are good. We are growing up a little bit. We are starting to bond.”
Derrick Nix, senior captain summed up his coaches glass half empty approach after the game. Nix said, “Coach is nervous. He could get Mateen Cleaves back and he would be nervous. That’s coach.”
Izzo also had high praise for Appling saying, “Keith has been doing some good things for us. He is one of our best defenders and smarter players.” On Dawson he said, “I like the way he was aggressive. I have been really pleased with the progress has made the last two or three weeks.”
Coach Bo Ryan of Wisconsin said of his team’s miserable shooting, “I can’t shoot them.”
Fan favorite Mike “Curly Top” Bruesewitz, the Badger forward, talked about the poor foul shooting. In frank honesty he said, “It’s cost us games before and it obviously cost us this.”
Coach Ryan said of the contest, “Look at the games we have had. You can have a guy have an off night. We had more than one and it was still a one possession ball game. I thought defensively we were playing our butts off, that is just a good scoring team.”
Badger forward Jared Berggren said of the Spartan defense, “You have to give them credit. They are a good defensive team, but at the same time we took some tough shots. You have to credit them. We did have some good looks too.”
Bo Ryan made defending Keith Appling key to his team and this may shock you, he thought they did OK. He had high praise for Appling saying, “I thought we did a pretty good job on him as far as making him work for his scores. Appling took advantage of that. He is good with the ball. We tried to get him to take low percentages shots and he did that. I thought what we did defensively was pretty good.”
The Spartans next game comes on Sunday in Bloomington, Indiana against the Hoosiers. A loss there puts no damper on the Spartans B1G title hopes, but a win puts them squarely in the driver’s seat for the next Spartan title.