With 12 seconds left in Sunday’s game, Adreian Payne gave Michigan State all the momentum.
But it took just seven more ticks of the clock to give it all back to Wisconsin.
Traevon Jackson broke a 58-58 tie with a made jumper with five seconds left in the game to give the Badgers a 60-58 win over the ninth-ranked Spartans at the Kohl Center.
“I think my teammates put me in a good position,” Jackson said after the game. “They were fighting the whole game. ... That’s just what they expected out of me is just to finish the game. I was just thinking ‘I need to get a shot up this time.’ I didn’t want to take it to the board and get blocked so the pull-up was there, and I’m blessed to be able to make it go in.”
After a Payne free throw brought the Spartans to within two points, a Frank Kaminsky 3-pointer seemed to seal it for the Badgers. But then Gary Harris made a miracle jumper off his back foot before Payne knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game with 12 seconds left. But Jackson came right back and got his jumper to go with five seconds left to send the Kohl Center into ebullience.
“Well, he is a guy that has earned that spot,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said of Jackson. “He proved it last year with some big plays. But what happens is if teams take that away from him his job is to get it to the open guy. His decision-making has been a little sporadic at times, but in a last-second situation, if it starts in his hands, I feel very confident that we are going to get something. It doesn’t mean he has to end up taking the shot, but he was wide open on that pull-up.”
“Disappointed we didn’t find a way to win it,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “I’ve watched two years worth of Jackson making game-winning shots, so I put my best defender on him and give the guy credit. He made another one. He has the courage to take them. As I told him after, he made a big play.”
And the bucket did a whole lot more than just count for two points. Jackson’s buzzer-beater gave the Badgers a much-needed win over the Spartans after a rough stretch that included three straight home losses. Knocked out of the top 25 earlier in the week, the Badgers could find themselves right back in the rankings after this win.
“Yeah, we had to (find something extra), playing against a team the caliber of Michigan State, how physical they are,” Wisconsin forward Josh Gasser said. “If you take a possession off, they’re going to make you pay for it, especially on the glass. They’re so physical, so strong and athletic, if you don’t block them out and put a body on them, you’ve got no shot. We definitely had to bring a little extra energy, a little extra effort that way, but it’s not just against them. We’ve got to do it every game, night in and night out, and that’s something we’ve got to continue to develop.”
After surging out to a 16-0 record this season, the Badgers were tripped up of late, losing five of six. But they’ve now won two straight, with Sunday’s obviously serving as another marquee victory for Wisconsin. Two wins don’t quite put the Badgers back on top of the Big Ten mountain, but it is, as one player said, a step in the right direction.
“I don’t know if we’re on our way back, I know we’re moving in the right direction, which I guess is almost one in the same,” Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes said. “This was a great win for us, and it’s big for us in terms of confidence. We’ll have to try to ride this win out, and hopefully we can get back to the way we were.”