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January 4, 2012

Spartans rally around Green, go 3-0 in Big Ten

MADISON, Wis. -- Tom Izzo never actually heard what the officials' final ruling was on Ryan Evans' apparent game-tying 3-pointer.

He just knew the shot didn't count, and Michigan State was walking away with a rare road victory at Wisconsin.

Evans' shot was disallowed after officials looked at a replay and ruled that it left his hand after time expired, allowing the Spartans (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) to hold on for a 63-60 overtime victory over the Badgers (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP).

"I don't know what happened at the end," Izzo said. "Nor do I care. I thought we played well enough and earned the win, and that's the way I'm going to look at it."

Draymond Green had 18 points and 14 rebounds, while Keith Appling added 16 points for the Spartans (14-2, 3-0 Big Ten), who have won 14 straight.

Jordan Taylor scored 28 points for the Badgers (12-4, 1-2), who have lost two straight at home for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

Evans' 3 was overturned when officials ruled he didn't get the shot off in time.

"Everybody was kind of just waiting for the refs to give the signal," Appling said. "There (weren't) really too many words said, other than us just looking at the refs trying to figure out if we were going to another overtime -- or did we win?"

In comments distributed by Wisconsin's sports information staff, referee Pat Driscoll acknowledged that there was some confusion because a clock on a side scoreboard appeared to show 0.2 seconds left when the shot left Evans' hand, while time had expired on the clock above the backboard.

"By rule we have to go by the clock that is on the backboard," Driscoll said. "I don't know why there would be different (times) -- it could be satellite, electronic, whatever -- but by rule we have to go by the clock that is attached to the backboard. In our review on the monitor, the clock clearly showed zeros while the ball remained in the Wisconsin player's hands."

Driscoll said officials looked at the replay approximately seven times, also examining whether Evans' foot was on the 3-point line.

Green, who missed a pair of free throws that could have put the game away in the final seconds, said waiting for the ruling was agonizing.

"The feeling for me was awful, but the feeling in the huddle was great because the guys, everybody picked me up -- 'Dray, no matter what, we're still going to win this game,' " said Green. "They didn't let me be down on myself, although I was. Everybody snatching me, grabbing my jersey, 'Hey, are you OK? If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't be in this position anyway.' That was real comforting."

Badgers coach Bo Ryan said he tried to sneak a peek at the replay monitor while officials were looking at it but didn't get a good look.

"I haven't broken it down yet," Ryan said. "Probably will, though."

It was another rare home loss -- and another rough shooting night -- for the Badgers, who shot poorly from outside in a home loss to Iowa on Saturday.

It was only the Badgers' 14th loss, and eighth conference loss, at home under Ryan.

The Badgers have been overly reliant on streaky outside shooting this season. They were 3 for 28 from 3-point range in the loss to the Hawkeyes.

They certainly made an effort to get the ball inside Tuesday, but still ended up going 5 for 22 from 3-point range.

Izzo said he made some defensive changes.

"We did a lot of things we don't normally do," Izzo said. "We switched a little more, we stunted, we did some things to try to stop that 3-point barrage. And thank god for us, one less went in."

Green hit a pair of free throws to give the Spartans a 54-52 lead early in overtime, but Evans scored inside to tie the game.

After defensive stops on both ends, Brandon Wood drove the lane and passed to Derrick Nix who scored to give the Spartans a 56-54 lead. Nix then scored again on a putback, putting Michigan State up 58-54 with 1:44 left in overtime.

After a long missed 3-point attempt by Wisconsin's Ben Brust, Appling went to the line and hit one of two free throws for a 59-54 lead with 50 seconds left.

Jared Berggren missed from 3-point range, and Green hit a pair of free throws. Taylor then hit a 3-pointer to cut the Spartans' lead to 61-57 with 22.6 seconds left. Appling hit a pair of free throws -- but Taylor hit another 3-pointer with just over 10 seconds left.

Green missed two free throws before Evans' desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer appeared to tie it.

Ryan praised Evans for racing to the 3-point line and getting his shot off quickly, a situation they've run in practice.

"But you can't wait until the end of the game to start making shots," Ryan said.

Izzo said the game was reminiscent of recent memorable clashes between the two schools' football teams.

"I told the team at the beginning, this is a Michigan State-Wisconsin game," Izzo said. "In football and basketball, the first overtime is just the way it's supposed to be."

The Spartans are 3-0 in the Big Ten with two wins on the road.

"That's a heck of a start," Izzo said. "Now we get a little reprieve, a little time off. If we use it as a positive it will be great. We have to make sure we don't use it as a time for people to pat us on the back.

"I just think we have something going here, and yet we have to get a lot better. It's been a fun team to coach. DayDay got a little down on himself early and bounced back, and was a little bummed out that he missed those free throws. But the team rallied around him and he thanked them."

Michigan State held Wisconsin to 33 percent shooting from the field.

"Our defense won us the game, and that's what we said in the locker room before the game: Don't think it's going to be pretty, it might be ugly, but let's just go at it and defend them, and that's what we did. I thought Brandon Wood stepped up defensively, a lot.

"We had some foul trouble, and Alex Gauna comes in and gives us a little bit, and Brandan Kearney comes in and gives us a little bit. It's those kind of things that makes a difference.

"Austin Thornton got some good rebounds at the end and I was proud of Austin.

"I did not think we played great. I thought the energy for both teams was very average early, and I couldn't figure out why.

"We had to come through so much adversity, with fouls and phantom technicals and we missed a couple of free throws.

"Give this team credit. We deserved to win the game whether the guy's foot was on the line or there was a second left or whatever it was, we deserved to win the game.

"We didn't die when it went into overtime. We should have won it in regulation. We had our moments when we looked very average, but our defense was pretty good. We rebounded the ball okay, not great.

"I thought the one negative was the number of free throws they got. It seemed like every time they drove there was a free throw and that was disappointing to me to be blunt about it.

"There was a technical on people behind the bench.

"I thought Appling got fouled a couple of times, but so be it, I'm going to enjoy the win. We played well enough to win. I don't think either team played as well as they can play."

MSU had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but did not create a good shot.

"We knew they had one more foul to give and Keith backed it out and I wanted him to come at it," Izzo said. "That was just a little inexperience on us, going through something we haven't. We had a good play set up."

MSU was strong earlier in the game coming out of time-outs.

"We came out of time outs with Appling on those ball screens, and Nix did some good things. I thought Appling did a great job taking it in there against some 6-10 guys.

"We executed pretty well at times. We went to DayDay in the post, but we missed something like 10 lay-ups in the first half."

Wisconsin was effective in the interior with its trademark undercutting defensive style while putting their hands up in the air innocently.

"There was that bodying underneath, that same stuff we have to deal with," Izzo said.

But this time, the Spartans don't have to deal with a loss, coming out of Wisconsin.







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