It took a controversial reversed call by referees to enable 10th-ranked Michigan State to finally break its decade-long Kohl curse.
With the Spartans protecting a 63-60 lead and just a few seconds remaining in overtime, Wisconsin forward Ryan Evans rebounded an errant Jordan Taylor three and banked in a right-wing desperation heave that appeared to force a second overtime period. Referees initially ruled that Evans' shot counted, but they ran into an unusual dilemma when they reviewed the play on a courtside monitor.
The clock on the ribbon board at the Kohl Center indicated Evans released the shot with a few tenths of a second left. The one above the basket synced to the red light behind the backboard read zeroes while the ball was still in Evans' hand. Lead referee Pat Driscoll told a pool reporter in Madison that left him no choice but to disallow the basket and declare Michigan State a 63-60 winner since it's the second clock that is official.
"In the rulebook, it's Rule 5 under, 'Scoring and Timing Regulation, Section 7, Beginning and End of the Period,'" Driscoll said. "In games with a tenth of a second, game clock display where an official courtside monitor is used -- which we had tonight -- the reading of zeroes on the clock is to be used to determine whether a field goal (is good) before or after the expiration of time and the period.
"In the process, by rule, we go to the courtside monitor. Any shot near the expiration of time for the first or second half, we review. Upon our review, we determined that the ball remained in the hand of the Wisconsin player at the reading of zeroes. [...] By rule, we have to go by the clock that is on the backboard."
The ruling by the referees left Michigan State jubilant, Wisconsin perplexed and the Kohl Center crowd enraged. The Badgers rallied from a five-point deficit at the end of regulation and appeared to storm back from six points down in the final 15 seconds in overtime, but instead fell to 1-2 in Big Ten play.
Said Spartans coach Tom Izzo: "I don't know what happened at the end, nor do I care. I thought we played well enough and earned the win."
Said Badgers coach Bo Ryan: "What are you going to do? Violence is out of the question."
The ramifications of Michigan State's victory are huge for both programs and for the Big Ten race.
Since the Spartans lost their first two games of the season to North Carolina and Duke, they've reeled off 14 straight victories including wins over Big Ten contenders Indiana and Wisconsin in the past week. Tuesday's victory snaps an eight-game Michigan State losing streak at the Kohl Center dating back to 2001.
For Wisconsin, the loss further punctured the program's air of invincibility at home. The Badgers had dropped only six conference games at the Kohl Center under coach Bo Ryan entering the season, but they've lost twice there in the past three days to Iowa and now Michigan State.
On Monday night, it was the Badgers football team that lost the Rose Bowl when the game clock expired before quarterback Russell Wilson could spike the ball to set up one final play. The following night, it was the Wisconsin basketball program that fell a few tenths of a second short.
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