Keith Appling scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half to help No. 10 Michigan State pull away to beat No. 22 Wisconsin 58-43 on Thursday night and stay in the Big Ten race.
The Spartans (23-7, 12-5) moved into a three-way tie for second with Michigan and Ohio State. The trio trails conference-leading Indiana with one game left in the regular season.
The Hoosiers can claim the Big Ten title outright with a win Sunday in Ann Arbor against the Wolverines. If they lose, Michigan would earn piece of the title and give Michigan State and the Buckeyes a shot to pull into a four-way tie. The Spartans close the regular season Sunday at home against Northwestern after Ohio State hosts Illinois.
The Badgers (20-10, 11-6) fell to fifth place with the decisive road loss after Purdue handed them their most lopsided setback at home in more than seven years.
Michigan State broke open a close slugfest with a 16-0 run early in the second half, taking a 21-point lead on Appling's three-point play.
The junior point guard had been held to single digits in each of the last three games, all losses, but bounced back in a big way. Appling scored more points against the Badgers than he scored in the previous three games combined.
And much to the delight of coach Tom Izzo, the Spartans showed some grit against the hard-nosed Badgers. Adreian Payne landed on his back after missing a dunk and while on the floor in pain, he grabbed a loose ball and called timeout. Izzo greeted Payne with a huge hug near the sideline and the crowd stood to give the junior forward a rousing ovation.
Michigan State freshman Gary Harris, who started the night leading the team in scoring, was scoreless in the first half on 0-of-6 shooting and finished with 11 points. Payne had nine points and 10 rebounds.
Wisconsin didn't have a scorer in double digits until Ben Brust made two free throws with 1:22 left to reach 10 points.
The first half, perhaps predictably, was not pretty.
Both teams missed exactly two-thirds of their shots, and not one player had more than six points by halftime. Wisconsin had eight turnovers in the first half, almost matching its nation-low average of 9.4, and finished with 17 turnovers.
The Spartans maintained the lead until Mike Bruesewitz made a 3-pointer to put Wisconsin ahead 12-10 with 9:09 left in the first half. The Badgers were scoreless for almost 6 minutes, but their deficit was never larger than eight points in the first half.
Travis Trice's 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer put Michigan State up 25-18.
After Jared Berggren opened the second half with a shot that pulled the Badgers within five points, they went more than 7 minutes without a point.
The Spartans took advantage, building a 41-20 lead on Appling's three-point play.
By the time Wisconsin finally scored again, on freshman Sam Dekker's first field goal with about 12 minutes to go, it was too late.
In a 49-47 loss to Michigan State in January, the Badgers made just 29.6 percent of their shots for their lowest mark in almost two years. They shot slightly worse in the rematch.
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LarryLage