Madison, Wis. — Gary Harris didn’t sugarcoat things Sunday afternoon as he sat in the visiting locker room at Kohl Center.
The sophomore guard had just gone through arguably his worst performance as a Spartan, going just 3-for-20 from the field in Wisconsin’s 60-58 victory.
“I just played pretty bad overall,” said Harris, who hit just one jump shot the entire game, while getting his other two baskets on fast-break dunks. “I really don’t have much to say other than I played horrible. Couldn’t have played any worse. … I just, I didn’t do enough to help my team win. I was just out there today.
“I was getting good looks, I just couldn’t hit anything. I don’t know how to phrase it other than I just sucked today.”
The Spartans (20-4, 9-2 Big Ten) had a chance to open up a full-game lead in the Big Ten race after Michigan’s loss Saturday, but now they are back in a tie with the Wolverines after the Badgers ended a five-game skid in the rivalry.
Even without guard Keith Appling for the second straight game and Harris struggling mightily, the Spartans found themselves in a position to steal a victory. Much of that was because of the 24 points from Adreian Payne, who played his second straight game after missing seven with a sprained right foot.
Payne’s biggest shot came with 8.7 seconds to play and Wisconsin leading, 58-55. Payne set a pick for Harris and then popped to the top of the key, taking a pass from Travis Trice and nailing a 3-pointer to tie the game.
“We executed that last 3-pointer as well as we’ve executed any play in 10 years,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Give Payne credit. He hit a big shot when he was dead tired.”
But it was a celebration that didn’t last long as Traevon Jackson hit a mid-range jumper over Harris with 2.1 seconds to play to give the Badgers (19-5, 6-5) the victory, ending a three-game losing streak at home.
“I put my best defender on him and the guy made a heck of a shot,” Izzo said. “I mean, he drove, popped, stopped, shot. Give him credit. I mean, I don’t blame Gary for that. I say that was a heck of a shot. And we couldn’t double him because they’ve got so many shooters, and he just made a heck of a play.”
The Spartans had a chance to pull the game out when Trice fired up a half-court shot at the buzzer, but it banged off the rim as the Badgers breathed a sigh of relief, admitting they started celebrating a bit early.
“I could have sworn it was going in,” Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser said. “Thank goodness it didn’t.”
Trice, who scored 13, said he expected to make it.
“After practice all the time we’ll be messing around and I hit that shot all the time,” Trice said. “When it left my hand I thought it was going in. To see it go out like that, it hurts.”
While Michigan State was limited, Wisconsin was balanced, getting 14 points from Nigel Hayes, 11 apiece from Gasser and Sam Dekker and 10 from Frank Kaminsky.
But Izzo said he still was proud of the way his team played, despite the loss, and wouldn’t pin the loss solely on Harris.
“Yeah, he didn’t take the best shots and I think he got a little frustrated, it’ll be a good learning lesson for him,” Izzo said. “There were times that we just didn’t have anybody else in there that could make shots so the ball got stuck in his hands a lot in critical times. … Did he force a couple? Yes, he did. Was he forced into forcing a couple? I believe so, but until I watch the film I don’t know. But we didn’t play well enough.
“We didn’t execute well enough to win a big game on the road against a very good team.”
And as much as Harris was putting the blame on himself, his teammates were chalking it up to a bad game.
“Gary is one of the best shooters I’ve been around and one of the best players I’ve been around,” Trice said. “Tonight I was driving and looking for him hoping he would get an open shot because if he sees one go down, he can get rolling. He is a great shooter. Everyone has an off night and this was just his.”