Davis leads No. 23 Spartans past No. 25 Badgers

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was on
Paul Davis all week to be aggressive going to the basket and play
big in the middle.

It looks like the senior center was listening.

Davis controlled the paint, scoring 27 points and grabbing nine
rebounds to lead Michigan State (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today; No. 25 AP) to a 74-65 victory over
Wisconsin (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today; unranked AP) on Thursday night.

"You hate saying coach is always right, but there's no question
that changes my game and my mentality," Davis said. "The biggest
thing was to post strong and get to the foul line more often."

In his next-to-last home game, Davis was 9-for-12 from the field
and 9-for-10 at the line for Michigan State, which had lost two in
a row and four of five to fall out of the race for the Big Ten

Maurice Ager had 19 points despite being in foul trouble for
much of the game and Shannon Brown scored 18 for the Spartans
(20-9, 8-7), who reached 20 wins for the seventh time in nine

"If you're always going 11-0 or 12-0 in the preseason, you can
get 20 wins easier," Izzo said. "If you're playing other people,
it's a lot more difficult to do that. I'm proud that we did it the
hard way. When you do that, your kids get mentally tougher."

Michigan State improved to 37-11 in games played in March over
the last eight years. With a home win over Illinois on Saturday,
the Spartans would lock up a first-round bye in next week's Big Ten

"It's just like being in the [NCAA] Tournament now," said
Brown, who took three midterm exams Thursday, then drew praise from
Izzo for his defense despite a case of leg cramps. "It feels like
one-and-done time. And we have to play that way for 40 minutes."

Alando Tucker scored 23 points but was the only player in double
figures for the Badgers (19-9, 9-6), who had won four of the
previous five and had faint hopes at a share of the league title.
But those hopes were dashed on Thursday.

Badgers guard Kammron Taylor came into the game averaging 15
points, but scored just nine on 4-for-18 shooting.

Wisconsin led 23-13 midway through the first half before
Michigan State got going. A 7-0 spurt late in the first half helped
the Spartans go up 35-31 at the break.

Davis had 12 points and Brown had 10 in the first 20 minutes,
when the Badgers were just 2-for-6 at the line.

Brown's alley-oop slam and fadeaway 3-pointer jump-started a run
early in the second half. The Spartans led 48-36 before Tucker, the
Big Ten's leading scorer, took charge with 19 second-half points.

But Tucker missed two free throws that would have cut the
deficit to 59-57, and Ager answered with 12 points in a span of
2:22 before fouling out with 1:01 left.

"I felt I had to do something like that," Ager said. "I sat
out for a long time and had to make up for it somehow. I had to
take over the game and help Paul out."

Michigan State shot 58 percent in the second half and 51 percent
for the game, improving to 13-1 when they shoot at least 50

"That's the ball game right in there, that stretch from the
5-minute to the 2-minute mark," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "We
get a couple of free throws that don't get in. It's a
couple-of-possession game there, and that's where you'd like to
keep it."