Jackson lifts Badgers over No. 9 Spartans 60-58
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By GENARO C. ARMAS
MADISON, Wis. (AP) In the closing seconds of a close game, Traevon Jackson takes the big shots for Wisconsin.
Doesn't matter if the point guard had been struggling in recent weeks with his shot. Or if he's having a tough day handling the ball, as he did Sunday with five turnovers against Michigan State. Coach Bo Ryan trusts the tough junior.
Jackson rewarded his coach's confidence Sunday after hitting a pull-up jumper from about 10 feet with 2.1 seconds left to lift the Badgers to a 60-58 win over the ninth-ranked Spartans.
"That's sort of what they expected out of me is just to finish the game," Jacksons said. "The pull-up was there, and I was blessed to be able to make it go in."
Jackson's jumper with Gary Harris in his face capped a frenetic final minute in which Michigan State's Adreian Payne tied it with a 3 with 10 seconds left.
A desperation 3 by Michigan State from midcourt banged off the rim as time expired, and the Wisconsin faithful erupted with applause. The victory snapped a three-game losing skid at home.
"Just (because) they lost a couple of home games - and that's un-American in the Cheesehead State - don't kid yourself. They're a very good team," coach Tom Izzo said.
The Badgers (19-5, 6-5 Big Ten) committed 14 turnovers, six more than their NCAA-leading 8.3 per game, but gutted out a win over the Spartans (20-4, 9-2).
Jackson hit three game-tying or winning jumpers in his first year at the point last season as a sophomore. He's the go-to guy in the clutch again this year.
"We executed that last 3-pointer as well as we've executed any play in the last 10 years," Izzo said. "I've watched two years' worth of Jackson hitting game-winning shots, so I put my best defender on him. And he hit another one."
Still, the Badgers had every right to be nervous. More than week ago in a similar spot in a loss to Ohio State, a defended Jackson had to pass up a final shot to teammate Sam Dekker, who missed a rushed 3 at the buzzer.
Jackson also went through a rough 12-of-45 shooting stretch, during which Wisconsin went 1-4.
But he's 7 of 12 now over his last two games, both Badgers wins. After a tough stretch of five losses in six games, Wisconsin clawed its way to a second straight victory.
Jackson finished with seven points and tied a career high with eight assists, but had five turnovers. No matter to Ryan.
"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 we're going to get something," Ryan said.
Freshman Nigel Hayes led Wisconsin with 14 points off the bench. Dekker added 11.
Payne led Michigan State with 24 points.
Travis Trice added 13 points for Michigan State, though Big Ten-leading scorer Harris was held to six points on 3-of-20 shooting after being shadowed most of the afternoon by defensive specialist Josh Gasser.
It was a tough day on both ends of the floor for Harris, who was guarding Jackson on the last play. Jackson veered left of the lane and pulled up for his game-winner.
"I don't blame Gary for that. ... You couldn't double him, because they've got so many shooters," Izzo said.
And yet Michigan State still had a chance late, even with guard Keith Appling sitting out a second straight game with a wrist injury.
Harris' long bucket with about 23 seconds left - one of his few bright spots on the afternoon - got the Spartans within three.
Wisconsin had a chance to turn it into a two-possession game, but Ben Brust - a 94 percent foul shooter - missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Michigan State secured the rebound and called timeout.
Izzo drew up a play that ended up with Payne holding the ball. He had burned Wisconsin much of the night on the inside.
This time Payne hit from the outside with 10 seconds left and the Badgers faithful thought they were witnessing another late collapse at home.
Instead, Jackson was clutch, helping to end Michigan State's five-game winning streak against Wisconsin.
"I'm inbounding, he's the first guy I'm looking for," Gasser said. "There's a bunch of guys that want to take it, but I think Trae really, really wants to take it."
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP
Updated February 9, 2014