Spartans Edged By No. 4 Badgers
March 3, 2007
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Shaking off a series of misses, Kammron Taylor hit the biggest shot of his career in his final home game at Wisconsin.
The senior guard's 3-pointer with 4 seconds remaining lifted the No. 4-ranked Badgers to a 52-50 victory over Michigan State on Saturday.
The win helped ease a tough week for the Badgers (27-4, 13-3 Big Ten), who immediately dropped two road games after earning the first No. 1 ranking in school history nearly two weeks ago.
Taylor was 4-for-18 in those games, including an 0-for-6 performance in the Badgers' Feb. 20 loss at Michigan State and a key missed free throw in the final minute of the Badgers' loss at Ohio State last Sunday.
"It was a big relief," Taylor said. "I'm sure you could tell by the expressions on my face."
Badgers coach Bo Ryan doesn't know if hitting that shot will help Taylor pull out of his shooting slump before the NCAA tournament, but was happy that he could enjoy a moment with his senior players.
"If it's an omen, we'll find out," Ryan said. "But what a great way to walk off the court here for the last time."
With Michigan State (21-10, 8-8) in foul trouble for much of the second half, Spartans coach Tom Izzo said he was forced to use a zone defense at the end of the game.
"We were running out of players, and he made a heck of a shot," Izzo said. "He hasn't made as many lately, and to his credit, I guess that's the way it's written in Hollywood when you're a senior."
Fellow senior Alando Tucker scored 26 to lead the Badgers, who were playing their first game without injured leading rebounder Brian Butch.
While Tucker said he enjoyed celebrating one final home victory with his senior teammates, there's more to do.
"National title," Tucker said. "It's bold, but that's what I think."
Drew Neitzel continued to shake off a lingering illness to score 22 for Michigan State, and he nearly helped the Spartans to their second upset of the Badgers in 12 days.
Neitzel hit a long jump shot to give the Spartans a one-point lead, 50-49, with 1:31 remaining. Taylor then missed a jump shot with 57 seconds left, but Michigan State's Travis Walton missed a jumper on the other end to give the ball back to the Badgers, who called timeout with 11.7 seconds left.
Taylor got the ball after an inbounds pass to Marcus Landry, and hit the 3-pointer to give the Badgers a two-point lead. Neitzel ran the length of the floor and tried to answer with a desperation 3-pointer at the final horn, but it fell short.
Despite two straight losses after a four-game winning streak that was helping Michigan State build momentum toward a potential NCAA tournament berth, Neitzel said the Spartans are ready for the postseason.
"We're ready for tournament time," Neitzel said. "This is a tough bunch of guys. We just keep fighting, keep fighting. Twice this year, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin, two of the best teams in the country, we had the ball with time running out with a shot with a chance to win. I'm proud of the guys."
Izzo said he hasn't praised his team enough during what has been a tough up-and-down season.
"This team today, between our illness and our foul troubles, played under some adverse conditions," Izzo said. "On, of course, one of the greater home floors in our league, (we) hung in there and had a shot to win it."
With 10 minutes remaining in the game, five Michigan State players had at least three fouls. By the 8:54 mark, three MSU players - Walton, Raymar Morgan and Maurice Joseph - had four fouls each. Morgan fouled out with 2:51 remaining.
"I thought we were going to have to forfeit the game there for a while," Izzo said.
Wisconsin also was shorthanded without Butch, who dislocated his right elbow in the Ohio State game and is expected to miss at least a month.
"They're missing Butch a little bit right now," Izzo said. "It's a different team."
Butch's elbow injury could keep him out as long as six weeks, putting his availability in doubt even if the Badgers advance deep into the NCAA tournament.
Butch watched Saturday's game from the Badgers' bench in a warmup suit with his elbow protected by a bulky sling.
"Guys are anxious," Tucker said. "It's always sad when you lose a teammate, but we can't hang our head."
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