MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Alando Tucker is the face—or these days, the face mask—of Wisconsin basketball.
Still, Kammron Taylor doesn’t feel overshadowed by his teammate.
“I don’t mind not getting any publicity—as long as we’re winning,” Taylor said.
Taylor tied a career high with 27 points and Wisconsin beat No. 7 Michigan State 82-63 on Sunday, improving to 33-1 in conference home games under coach Bo Ryan.
Tucker, still wearing a face mask to protect the nasal injury he sustained in a Nov. 29 loss at Wake Forest, added 17 points on 5-of-17 shooting. He scored at least 25 points in three of the previous four games.
The Badgers have won seven of the last eight meetings with Michigan State. Ryan isn’t one to gloat, but the Wisconsin crowd isn’t above rubbing it in: “Bo owns Izzo!” they chanted.
The Spartans and coach Tom Izzo also own an 0-2 conference record.
After Sunday’s loss and a defeat at Illinois on Thursday, Michigan State has begun Big Ten play with two losses for the first time since the 2001-02 season, when it lost its first three conference games.
But the Spartans certainly weren’t the only Big Ten heavyweight to fall in the first week of league play.
The Badgers (12-2, 2-0 Big Ten) are one of only three Big Ten teams along with Indiana and Northwestern that got through the first week of conference play undefeated—Illinois and Ohio State also lost over the weekend.
This was the Spartans’ second trip to Wisconsin in less than a month, and Izzo came away from each game with a different concern.
After the Spartans’ Dec. 21 victory at Wisconsin-Green Bay, Izzo said he was worried about his team’s defense going into Big Ten play.
Now he’s worried about the offense.
Shannon Brown scored 31 points for Michigan State (12-4, 0-2), but the Badgers held the Spartans’ other two scoring threats, Maurice Ager and Paul Davis, in check.
“No team is going to do well if two of their three best players don’t play well at all,” Izzo said. “Ours have really struggled in the first two games.”
Izzo said he wasn’t sure why two of his top players are struggling.
“I always preach to my teams that outside issues can create problems,” Izzo said. “They’re both great kids, but I think they’re struggling right now and we’re just going to have to work through it. We knew it would be a tough start.”
Ager, the Spartans’ leading scorer, was held to 11 points. The senior guard, who came in as the league’s second-leading scorer with 21.1 points per game, had only four first-half points.
Ager was held to nine points in the Spartans’ loss at Illinois, the first time he hadn’t scored in double figures this season.
“I think he’s putting a lot of pressure on himself and not really seeing the game,” Izzo said.
The Badgers held Davis to two points. He did have nine rebounds.
“Seniors have to bring energy, and they have to bring leadership … it’s been null and void the last two games,” Izzo said.
Taylor, a junior guard, brought plenty of energy to Wisconsin, scoring 12 points in the first half and opening the second half with a jumper and a 3-pointer.
“My teammates were doing a good job of finding me when I was open, and I was just knocking shots down,” Taylor said.
His second-half scores touched off a 13-0 run that put the Badgers ahead 49-26 only 3 minutes into the half.
“We want to set the tone in the second half,” Tucker said.
Tucker struggled at the free-throw line, going 6-of-17. But he didn’t blame the mask for his free-throw shooting problems, saying it was “all mental.”
Tucker is shooting 50 percent from the line this season.
“As cold as he is right now, he’s going to get that hot,” Ryan said.
Brian Butch added 12 points for the Badgers.
Taylor made two key defensive plays in the first half as Wisconsin took a 36-26 halftime lead. His steal and layup gave the Badgers a 16-15 lead with 8:45 remaining in the half. He came up with another steal one minute later and hit a jumper.
Wisconsin extended the lead to 30-19 with 3:44 left in the half on a clumsy, falling-down layup by Marcus Landry, but Michigan State rallied to within six on a layup by Drew Neitzel and a 3-pointer by Brown to make the score 30-24 with 3:14 left in the half.