EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Michigan State showed some physical and mental toughness just in time to keep its narrow lead in the Big Ten race.
Kalin Lucas scored 17 points to help the sixth-ranked Spartans come from behind to beat Wisconsin 61-50 on Sunday.
Goran Suton had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Michigan State (21-5, 11-3), which leads No. 19 Purdue by one game with four games remaining.
Wisconsin (17-10, 8-7) led by as many as 12 points in the second half, but the Spartans’ comeback ended a five-game winning streak for the Badgers.
“We turned our intensity up in the second half,” said Suton, who didn’t start but had 14 points and seven rebounds in the second half. “We were down. We were looking at our last chance.”
Wisconsin led 41-29 with about 12:30 remaining, but Michigan State stepped up its defense and rebounding—and finally hit some shots—to go on a 32-9 run.
Lucas hit a jumper to give Michigan State a 49-47 lead with 3:10 left. After a Michigan State steal, Chris Allen hit a 3-pointer to make it 52-47 with 2:40 left.
It stole the momentum from Wisconsin, which had won the five straight after a six-game losing streak.
“Life is about tempo and pace in a lot of things that we do,” said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who has an 11-4 record against Michigan State. “When they were making their run, which you know teams are going to do especially at home, you need to get a bucket to squeeze between. We missed some shots around the basket.”
Trevon Hughes had 12 points for Wisconsin, while Marcus Landry added 11.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo preached toughness and inside scoring during several second-half timeouts. He wasn’t happy with impatience on offense that led to several turnovers and outside shots for much of Sunday’s game.
“We had some interesting huddles,” Izzo said of his second-half timeouts in a roaring Breslin Center.
Izzo’s overall message: Stop taking—and missing—outside shots, and pound the ball inside. He has described his team as “fragile” at several points this season.
“We got back to brass tacks and that changed a lot of things,” Izzo said.
Michigan State outrebounded Wisconsin 37-25. The Spartans held the Badgers to 31 percent shooting from the field, including 28 percent in the second half.
The win came in front of several members of Michigan State’s 1979 national championship team, which had a 30-year anniversary celebration on campus this weekend. Magic Johnson and coach Jud Heathcote were among those honored at halftime of Sunday’s game.
Izzo predicted Heathcote would not be happy with the Spartans’ play, particularly in the first 28 minutes. But the Spartans played like a team that could contend for a title late in Sunday’s game.
Izzo said he opted to start seldom-used center Tom Herzog in place of Suton as a reward for Herzog’s recent hard practices and what Izzo called an oversight for not playing Herzog earlier this week in a lopsided loss to Purdue.
Michigan State committed nine turnovers in the game’s first 13 minutes, helping Wisconsin to a 22-12 lead. The Badgers led 31-25 at halftime.
Michigan State was coming off a 72-54 loss at Purdue on Tuesday. The teams meet again in East Lansing on either March 7 or 8 to close out the regular season.