EAST LANSING, Mich. – Wisconsin needed a win to make its final game of the regular season for a share of the Big Ten title.
That opportunity evaporated as the Badgers piled up errant shots in a 58-43 loss to No. 10 Michigan State on Thursday night.
Coach Bo Ryan insisted he's not disappointed.
"With this team and what they've done, I'm not trading them," Ryan said. "These guys have been working extremely hard."
Keith Appling scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half to help Michigan State pull away. The Spartans broke open a close slugfest with a 16-0 run after the break.
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. While four teams play with Big Ten title hopes on Sunday, Wisconsin will play at Penn State without much at stake.
"We have a lot to learn and a lot to improve on come tournament time," Wisconsin freshman Sam Dekker said. "The last three weeks, we thought we were invincible. Now that we've taken two 'Ls' things aren't so easy for us, but that's life in the Big Ten."
Wisconsin shot 29.4 percent for its lowest number since shooting 29.3 percent on March 6, 1999, in a 56-41 loss to Michigan State.
"We're just a little tight," Badgers guard Ben Brust said.
Ryan has lost five straight to a team for the first time since he took over at Wisconsin, according to STATS, LLC. Ryan is 0-6 against Butler, losing five of those games while leading Wisconsin-Milwaukee
The Spartans (23-7, 12-5) moved into a three-way tie for second with Michigan and Ohio State. The trio trails Big Ten-leading Indiana with one game left in the regular season.
The Hoosiers can claim the 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.
Michigan State took a 21-point lead on Appling's three-point play at the end of their pivotal run in the second half. 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.
Wisconsin didn't have a scorer in double digits until Brust made two free throws with 1:22 left to reach 10 points. Ryan Evans and Dekker each scored nine points for the Badgers.
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 Dekker's first field goal with about 12 minutes to go, it was too late.
"We just can't have those spells," Ryan said.
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.
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