MADISON, Wis. (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - So many Michigan State game stories this season have started roughly like this - (fill in player name) and (fill in player name) couldn't play, yet the Spartans (fill in blank).
Today at Wisconsin, Keith Appling (wrist) and Branden Dawson (broken hand) couldn't play, and Gary Harris suffered through the worst shooting day of his career, yet the Spartans were in position to steal a game from Wisconsin.
They couldn't pull it off, though, not with the Badgers getting a Traevon Jackson jumper on Harris with 2.1 seconds left to win, 60-58. MSU's Adreian Payne (24 points) had just tied the game with a three, and MSU's Travis Trice (13 points) barely missed a halfcourt heave at the buzzer that would have won it.
Harris finished 3-for-20 for six points, and two of his three baskets were breakaway dunks.
So the No. 9 Spartans (20-4, 9-2 Big Ten) fall back into a first-place tie with Michigan, which lost Saturday at Iowa.
Wisconsin (19-5, 6-5 Big Ten) got 14 points from freshman forward Nigel Hayes and some big threes late to get a crucial home victory - and break a five-game losing streak to the Spartans. MSU had won eight of 10 in the series.
It was 43-33 Badgers when Payne converted inside twice in a row, plus the fouls and free throws. A fast-break layup from Matt Costello cut the lead to 46-44.
It was 47-44 when a long Josh Gasser triple ended a Wisconsin field-goal drought of nearly 7 minutes to double his team's lead. A Ben Brust corner three with 3:33 left made it 55-48.
It was 55-49 when Costello swatted Hayes near the rim, leading to a fast-break and Trice three. MSU then got a stop and Payne got fouled, and he made one of two to make it 55-53 with 56.1 seconds left.
Then came a key possession. Costello doubled Jackson on a ball screen, leaving Frank Kaminsky alone for a triple try. He nailed it with 27.8 seconds left to make it 58-53.
Still, MSU had a chance after Harris finally hit a jumper and Brust missed the front end of a one-and-one. Tom Izzo called time-out with 14.3 seconds left to draw up a play, and Payne buried a three to tie it - setting up the final sequence.
Jackson drove hard at Harris, getting a step on him and creating space for a pull-up shot that was perfect.