Cassius Winston and No. 11 Michigan State basketball pulled away late from Ethan Happ and No. 20 Wisconsin, with the Spartans riding a late 8-0 run to earn a critical 67-59 road victory over the Badgers on Tuesday night at Kohl Center.
Winston scored 23 points with six assists and five rebounds. Kenny Goins hit a critical 3-pointer with 32 seconds to play and finished with 12 points and nine rebounds despite playing with an injured left elbow. Nick Ward finished with 12 points and six rebounds, while Aaron Henry added eight points — including a key jumper with 2:29 to play that sparked MSU's closing run.
The Spartans (20-5, 11-3 Big Ten) host Ohio State on Saturday. They will play four of their final six regular-season games at Breslin Center, with road games left at Indiana and Michigan.
Happ scored 20 points with 12 rebounds, and Nate Reuvers had 11 points for the Badgers (17-8, 9-5).
When the two teams needed their stars, both Winston and Happ shined.
Winston, the 6-foot junior, hit four 3-pointers and set up his teammates for others.
Happ was a force on the low block and continually drove around MSU's big men.
Perhaps the difference in the game was at the free-throw line. Happ missed all six of his attempts, including two with 1:28 left and MSU only up three points.
Ward had a big first half, scoring nine points on 4 of 5 shooting and grabbing four rebounds. He was scoreless in the second half until a three-point play with 15.7 seconds left that sealed the victory.
Both team found success and caused troubles in a first half that featured 11 lead changes and seven ties.
Ward and Happ traded buckets in the post, with the MSU big man scoring nine and the Badgers' star getting eight in the opening half. Ward ran the court and collected a long outlet pass from Winston for a dunk, then Goins and Winston hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put MSU up 21-18 with 8:36 left.
Wisconsin answered with a 14-4 run that included a five-point trip by Brevin Pritzl. Matt McQuaid got called for a Flagrant-1 foul, Pritzl hit the two technical free throws, then drained a 3-pointer from the corner a few seconds later. He punctuated the Badgers' burst with an all-alone dunk off an egregious Winston turnover.
Izzo lit into Winston and his players during the ensuing media timeout, and the Spartans surged with an 9-0 spurt coming out of it. Ward hit a hook shot, then kicked out to Kyle Ahrens for a 3-pointer. Winston knocked down another triple to give MSU a 33-32 lead with 1:57 left.
Happ connected on a layup over Ward with 35 seconds to send Wisconsin into halftime up, 38-37. After opening the game 5 of 14 in the first 9-plus minutes, the Badgers made 10 of their final 20 shots to close the half.
Winston scored 14 points, including three 3-pointers, with three assists in the first 20 minutes.
Just like the first half, the two teams continued to trade leads and stay close to one another in the second period.
Wisconsin scored the first five points of after intermission, with a Nate Reuvers 3-pointer and a Happ layup.
Back came MSU, with a 12-0 run in which Winston set up a McQuaid 3-pointer with an offensive board and quick flip pass to the wing. Then Winston scored on a layup, hit a jumper and dished to Goins for a 3-pointer to give the Spartans their largest lead at the time at 49-46 with 14:30 left.
Back came Wisconsin, specifically Happ. The fifth-year senior scored six straight points to tie the game back up, then got two more buckets after that.
MSU held him scoreless the final 6:02.