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Big Ten

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Badgers look to guard for big shot

– 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,” Jackson 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. The victory snapped a three-game losing skid at home for the Badgers.

“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 they 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 finished with seven points and tied a career high with eight assists. 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.