Michigan State looks like old self, tops Wisconsin

Written By BY SETH GRUEN Staff Reporter Posted: 04/17/2014, 12:51am

INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo may have finally come out of his state of amnesia about how good this Spartans team is and can be — whacked upside the head and reminded in the first five minutes of Michigan State’s 83-75 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament semifinals Saturday.

The Michigan State that beat Kentucky on Nov. 12 and was once the top-ranked team in the country seems like it was seasons ago. Three starters have missed extended time because of injury, including Adreian Payne (foot), Keith Appling (wrist) and Branden Dawson (broken hand). And losing those guys at different times meant that this team hasn’t practiced much together this season.

But then there were those first five minutes. Michigan State started the game on a 7-0 run that later ballooned into a 21-point first-half lead.

‘‘We played some of our best basketball of the year in those first five minutes,’’ Izzo said.

Payne, Appling and Dawson all scored in double figures. Payne paced the Spartans with 18 points, though foul trouble limited him to only 17 minutes.

His absence allowed Wisconsin to eventually climb back into the game, cutting the Spartans’ lead to six with 10.6 seconds left. From his bench, Izzo harped a little on a lack of energy in the second half but didn’t appear overly concerned.

Michigan State will play Michigan for the Big Ten championship, the first time the two teams have met in the history of the tournament. The Wolverines swept their two regular-season meetings with the Spartans. Dawson was sidelined on both occasions.

‘‘I’m very excited to be given a chance to play against these guys,” Dawson said. ‘‘Just sitting out watching those two games, I felt like I could have helped out a lot.’’

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen

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