EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Chris Allen was the only player on the court 2 hours before Michigan State played Wisconsin, solemnly making jumpers from all over the court.
It paid off.
Allen scored 16 points while some key teammates struggled, helping the 10th-ranked Spartans hold off No. 17 Wisconsin for a 54-47 win Wednesday night.
“Being there 2 hours early is just something I do because confidence is everything,” Allen said. “When you have it, the game is easy. When you don’t, every move is tough.”
Michigan State (12-3, 2-0 Big Ten) did not trail, but it could not put the pesky Badgers (12-3, 2-1) away in a closely contested defensive struggle until the final minutes.
“I’m sore just from watching,” Wisconsin Bo Ryan said.
The Spartans finally created a cushion with Raymar Morgan’s three-point play that put them up 4:16 to go. Kalin Lucas followed with a shot that put them ahead by eight with a couple minutes left, sealing Michigan State’s eighth straight Big Ten home-opening win.
“That was an NCAA game,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Draymond Green had 11 points, Lucas scored 10 on 3-of-13 shooting and Durrell Summers was scoreless on an 0-for-4 night.
Allen had nine points at halftime, leading all scorers, and finished with his best game offensively since scoring a career-high 22 points in November against Valparaiso.
“He took advantage of his opportunities,” Ryan said. “It’s not like we didn’t think he could score.”
Lucas went 1 of 8, Morgan missed his only attempt and Summers was 0 of 3 in the first half.
The Spartans led 22-20 at halftime as both teams shots below 30 percent.
It was reminiscent of their ugly Final Four matchup in 2000 when Michigan State led the Badgers 19-17 at the half and went on advance and beat Florida for its second national championship.
“They have patience, give them credit,” Izzo said. “That’s what to do with their system. They follow it, he’s won with it and it is hard to play against.
“I don’t want to play that game again, but it reminded me of playing Pittsburgh in the NCAAs when there are slugfests you have to play.”
Michigan State, the defending Big Ten champions, and the Badgers have won eight of the last 12 conference titles.
Jon Leuer scored 18 of his 21 points after halftime to keep Wisconsin in the game.
Leuer was 1 of 7 in the first half, but bounced back with a strong second half that gave the Badgers a shot at coming back.
“We needed him to do that in the second half or there would’ve been a lot of separation because some other guys are struggling,” Ryan said.
Trevon Hughes, who was averaging a team-high 16.5 points, finished with seven on 3-of-13 shooting.
“He knows he’s had better nights,” Ryan said. “And, he knows he can get better.”
Jason Bohannon scored 10 for the Badgers, who made only one-third of their shots.
“They were physical,” Leuer said. “They forced us into a lot of tough shots.”
Michigan State didn’t shoot much better—a season-low 38 percent—but had only one turnover in the second half after giving up the ball nine times in a sloppy first half and grabbed 14 more rebounds.
“I don’t know if we both played bad—or tough,” Izzo said. “We won with some grit against a team that played with some grit.”
The Spartans have won seven of their last eight games and Wisconsin had won six straight.
The Badgers routed Ohio State and Penn State in their first two Big Ten games and it will be tough to avoid a 2-2 conference record because they host No. 4 Purdue on Saturday.
“If you’re a competitor, that’s all you can ask,” Bohannon said. “It’s two great challenges. It’s also two, great opportunities.”