EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Wisconsin and Michigan State returned most of their top players from last year, planning on experience helping them have a lot of success.
It has worked out well for the Badgers. The Spartans, meanwhile, are sputtering.
AJ Storr matched a season high with 22 points and Steven Crowl scored a season-high 18 points, leading No. 23 Wisconsin to a 70-57 win over Michigan State on Tuesday night.
“We’re significantly better than we were a year ago,” coach Greg Gard said.
The Badgers (7-2, 1-0 Big Ten) have won six straight and didn’t trail for a second straight game, including a win over then-No. 3 Marquette.
The Spartans (4-4, 0-1) got off to a bad start and struggled to make 3-pointers, troubling trends for coach Tom Izzo as he searches for answers with a team that was ranked No. 4 in the preseason.
“It is shocking,” Izzo said. “It’s shocking the way the summer went. It’s shocking from last year. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the pressure.”
Izzo put point guard A.J. Hoggard back in the starting lineup and he had a turnover on his team’s first possession and Crowl made a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, setting the tone for both teams.
Storr was 8 of 11 overall and made 4 of 6 3-pointers.
“He’s grown as much as anybody over the last four to six weeks at both ends of the floor,” Gard said.
Crowl, who was 4 of 4 beyond the arc, played a part in Wisconsin making 10 of 23 3-pointers.
The Badgers also turned 11 offensive rebounds into 19 second-chance points.
“That shouldn’t happen to us,” Izzo said. “It’s my fault. I’m getting soft because I’m listening to too many people.
“We’re going to get the shoulder pads out. We’re going to get back to normal a little bit and quit worrying about the lawyers and all the people I worry about, and do what I do.”
Tyson Walker scored 22 points and Hoggard had 14 points, seven assists and two turnovers for the Spartans.
The Badgers led 11-2 several minutes into the game while Michigan State missed 7 of 8 shots in its latest poor start.
“When it happens over and over again, it’s got to be on me,” Izzo said. “I’ll take it.”
The Spartans rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to pull within five points with 8:28 left before the Badgers took control for good with nine straight points.
“Our ability to handle their run in the second half showed a lot of maturity,” Gard said.
Wisconsin has won three straight at Michigan State for its longest streak in the series since 1961-63 when the Spartans played at Jenison Field House.
Wisconsin: Gard’s team might be one of the hottest in college basketball, winning six straight games by an average of 15 points.
Michigan State: Izzo has a lot of work to do, turning around a team that is struggling to make shots and get off to strong starts.
Wisconsin went from unranked without a vote in last week’s poll to earning a spot. The Badgers have a chance to climb even higher.
Michigan State has plummeted in the poll since starting the season ranked fourth in the AP Top 25 poll.
Wisconsin: At top-ranked Arizona on Saturday.
Michigan State: Plays at Nebraska on Sunday night.