Greg Gard offers a straightforward explanation for No. 9 Wisconsin’s lack of success at No. 12 Michigan State.
“The biggest reason why we haven’t won there is because they’re really good,” said Gard, the Badgers’ head coach. “I know that sounds simplistic, but it’s that simple.”
The Badgers have dropped 12 straight in East Lansing, with their last victory there dating back to 2004. They ended an eight-game overall losing streak to the Spartans with a home victory in February.
The two powerhouse Big Ten schools will square off on Christmas Day.
“If you look at any good program, they should have a good home record,” Gard said. “I’m pretty sure a lot of teams have had struggles with Michigan State, whether it’s home, road, neutral, Mars, the moon, wherever.”
The Badgers (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) can lock down on opponents, regardless of where the game is played. They are holding opponents to an average of 57.5 points per game on 36.2 percent shooting overall and 31.3 percent on 3-point attempts.
In their Big Ten opener against Nebraska on Tuesday, the Badgers missed 15 of their first 16 field-goal tries, yet still moved ahead 25-24 by halftime. They pulled away to a 67-53 triumph while holding the Cornhuskers to 33.3 percent shooting.
“That’s why you rely on your defense, when you have a half or part of a half like we did in the first half where it’s hard to find the basket,” Gard said.
Wisconsin doesn’t have a true offensive standout. Micah Potter is averaging a team-best 13.4 points, and three other starters are averaging in double figures. Its success will continue to be based upon defensive chemistry.
“They want to be the best defensive team in the country,” Gard said. “That’s an everyday challenge. Obviously, experience helps … it takes a long time to become a good defensive team.”
The Spartans (6-1) will try to bounce back from an embarrassing loss at Northwestern in their conference opener on Sunday. They were dominated by the unheralded Wildcats, 79-65, trailing by double digits throughout the second half.
“Obviously still disappointed, not by the loss but just by how we played,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “And yet, I’m going to look myself in the mirror and say, ‘You know what, there’s going to be some ups and downs and there’s going to be some mind-boggling days when you just say, ‘What’s going on?’ “
Izzo expects his team to bounce back and play like it did during the nonconference portion of its schedule, which led to a No. 4 ranking last week.
“I do think it was a learning experience for us, that you have to play with energy every single day,” he said. “We got some things worked out. We worked hard the last two or three days so that doesn’t happen again.”
Izzo notes that the Badgers start five seniors and have another on the second unit.
“The one thing they have going for them is experience,” he said. “It will be a heck of a Christmas Day, nationally televised game that we’re excited about. I do think they’re one of the best teams in our league, if not the best. When you have six seniors on your team that are in the playing group. … I think some of them came in the league when I started in the league.”
–Field Level Media
#Wisconsin #rare #win #Michigan #State