EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Wisconsin's first taste of a top
ranking turned sour Tuesday.
Even so, the Badgers (No. 2 ESPN/USA Today, No. 1 AP) made no excuses after falling 64-55 at
Michigan State in their first game in school history as the
top-ranked team in The Associated Press poll.
Michigan St. coach Tom Izzo shares his thoughts about his team's upset victory over No. 2 Wisconsin on Tuesday night. Listen
"I don't think that had anything to do with it," Wisconsin
coach Bo Ryan said of the pressure of playing with the top ranking
in the nation. "Michigan State played better."
Especially Drew Neitzel. The junior guard scored 28 points and
hit several key shots in the second half to give Michigan State its
first win over a top-ranked team since the Spartans defeated
Indiana State in the 1979 national championship game.
Wisconsin (26-3, 12-2 Big Ten) now trails Ohio State (No. 1 ESPN/USA Today, No. 2 AP) by a
half-game in the Big Ten standings. The Buckeyes play Penn State on
Wednesday, then host the Badgers in a No.1-No.2 showdown Sunday.
The winner will be in the driver's seat for the Big Ten title and a
top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The win also boosts the postseason hopes of the Spartans (20-8,
7-6 Big Ten), who are trying to make the trip to the NCAA
Tournament for the 10th straight season. It's the longest streak in
the Big Ten and fifth-longest in the nation. Only Arizona (22),
Kansas (17), Kentucky (15) and Duke (11) have longer current
The Spartans have also notched at least 20 wins for the eighth
time in the past 10 years.
"This is unbelievable," Neitzel said after working his way
throw the crowd and heading to a postgame press conference. "It is
a chance for us to leave our legacy and our footprints on the
The junior guard hit two 3-pointers late in the game that gave
the Spartans momentum. One of his shots bounced in and out of the
basket twice before falling through, giving Michigan State a 56-51
lead with about 2:20 left.
His 3-pointer just a few minutes earlier gave the Spartans the
lead for good, 51-49, with just under 4 minutes left.
"Neitzel hit some real tough shots, just like we knew he
would," Wisconsin's Kammron Taylor said.
A tenacious Michigan State defense forced Tucker to settle for
outside shots. The Spartans also dominated on the boards,
outrebounding the Badgers 41-24.
"That's the best defense I've faced this season," Tucker said.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo soaked up the celebration
afterwards, counting it as one of the best wins he has enjoyed on
the Spartans' home court.
"I just sat and watched," Izzo said of the aftermath. "It's
one of those memory makers, and that's what life is all about."
The Badgers will aim to bounce back against Ohio State in what
still figures to be a highly hyped game. Wisconsin already has set
a school records for victories in a season, despite having a
five-game win streak snapped Tuesday.
"We still have a game to play on Sunday," forward
said. "Our schedule doesn't stop because we lost."