Preview: No.8 Michigan State vs. No.14 UW

After setting the nets on fire Friday afternoon, shooting 48.2 percent overall and 50 percent from 3-point range, No.14 Wisconsin looks to advance to its first tournament title game since 2008 with a win over No.8 Michigan State Saturday.

No.8 Michigan State (25-7, 13-5 Big Ten) vs. No.14 Wisconsin (24-8, 12-6 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, March 10, 12:40 p.m. Central

Arena – Banker's Life Fieldhouse (18,345)

Television - CBS (Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Michigan State leads 71-60 (Series tied 3-3 in neutral site)

Last Meeting – Michigan State won, 69-55, on February 16, 2012 in East Lansing, Mich.

Wisconsin Probable Starters

5 Ryan Evans (6-6 Junior Forward, 10.7 ppg)

11 Jordan Taylor (6-1 Senior Guard, 14.5 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 7.9 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (6-6 Junior Forward, 5.7 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (6-10 Junior Forward, 10.6 ppg)

Off the Bench

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Sophomore Guard, 7.5 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Freshman Guard, 1.3 ppg)

33 Rob Wilson (6-4 Senior Guard, 3.9 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (6-11 Freshman Forward, 1.9 ppg)

Michigan State Probable Starters

5 Adreian Payne (6-10 Sophomore Center, 7.0 ppg)

11 Keith Appling (6-1 Sophomore Guard, 11.5 ppg)

13 Austin Thornton (6-5 Senior Guard, 5.0 ppg)

23 Draymond Green (6-7 Senior Forward, 16.3 ppg)

30 Brandon Wood (6-2 Senior Guard, 8.4 ppg)

Off the Bench

0 Russell Byrd (6-7 Freshman Guard, 1.8 ppg)

20 Travis Trice (6-0 Freshman Guard, 5.0 ppg)

25 Derrick Nix (6-9 Junior Guard, 7.8 ppg)

Last Time Out

INDIANAPOLIS - With Wisconsin's other senior guard, Jordan Taylor, struggling though poor shooting and foul trouble, Wilson came off the bench to score 30 points on an efficient 16 shots to help No.14 Wisconsin outlast the Hoosiers, 79-71.

"The weight of the ball felt like it was going in today," said Wilson. "I don't remember that feeling in a long time."

Wilson's performance assaulted the record books, as he set a new UW record for most points in the Big Ten Tournament (surpassing Devin Harris' 29 points against Illinois in 2004), his 11 made field goals surpassed Harris and Alando Tucker's 10, his made 3-pointers were more than Harris' five against Michigan State in 2004 and his 70 percent from 3-point range was better than Sean Masson's 57.1 percent against Iowa in 1999.

Most of all, it was unexpected for a player that scored 36 total points his entire junior year and hasn't started a game all season.

"He's been doing this in practice, in these last few games, and he's really been coming on for us," said junior Jared Berggren, who added 16 points and nine rebounds. "I can't honestly say I expected him to have 30 before this game. I knew he was capable of putting up good numbers, so it was fun to see."

Fun, and necessary. With Taylor a nonfactor shooting 3-for-12 and sitting at lengths on the bench because of foul trouble, Wilson carried the offense. After Indiana – which got 17 points from Jordan Hills, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller - cut a seven-point lead down to one early in the second half, Wilson hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to push the UW lead to 48-41, both coming off assists from Josh Gasser and Mike Bruesewitz.

"It's crazy," Gasser said of Wilson, who scored nine straight points for UW during that stretch. "He deserves a performance like this. When he hits one or two shots you feel great because he's a senior who has worked himself up being one of the hardest workers on the team."

All of those shots fail to compare to his final dagger. With Indiana cutting the lead to four with 70 seconds remaining and a partisan Hoosiers crowd on their feet, Taylor swung the ball to Wilson at the right elbow and unleashed a fist pump when Wilson buried it at the end of the shot clock.

- By Benjamin Worgull – Badgernation.com

Last Meeting

EAST LANSING, Mich. - The aggressors from the opening tip, Michigan State used its stingy defense to poke holes in UW's transition defense to turn an expected wire-to-wire battle into a 69-55 drubbing in front of 14,797 at the Breslin Center that was basically over by halftime.

As a result, No.15 Wisconsin missed a golden opportunity to move a game back of first place Ohio State in the Big Ten with five games remaining. It also lost its opportunity to control its own face in the conference race by being swept in the regular season by No.7 Michigan State (21-5, 10-3) for the first time since 2001.

It's also the second time this season Wisconsin has got its doors blown off this season and, ironically, both have come in the state of Michigan.

Evans led Wisconsin with 17 points and Taylor – who averaged 24.3 points in his last four meetings against the Spartans – scored 13 points, his 16th consecutive double-digit scoring game, but shot only 3 of 13, including 1 of 7 in the first half and 1 of 6 from three-point range.

The Badgers did become only the third opponent to out rebound Michigan State, 33-30, this season and made all 14 of their free throws, but shot 7 of 22 (31.8 percent), including 1 of 9 3-pointers (11.1 percent), in the first half and went 18 of 53 (34.0 percent) overall and 5 of 24 from 3-point range (20.8 percent) overall.

Green led the Spartans with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists (his 14th double-double of the season) and converted 17 of his 13 free throws. Appling added 20 points as the Spartans won 16 in a row at home and shot 52.2 percent (24 of 46) overall.

Wisconsin shot poor early, but went on an 8-0 run to take a 12-8 lead 10:09 into the first half. The roof collapsed from there, as the Spartans went on a 14-0 run that gave them momentum, and a lead, they never relinquished.

The turnaround was the result of Green finding his footing. After being held scoreless for the first 10:30, Green scored all seven of his first-half points during the run as the Badgers went 1-for-6 with three turnovers during the stretch.

Despite missing six lay ups, Michigan State shot 52 percent in the first half, outscored Wisconsin 15-0 in fast break points and 7-0 in bench points. The Spartans had no transition points after halftime and the bench points were tied 7-7, but the damage was done.

Wisconsin traded punches in the second half and nearly doubled its first half point production, but never could get over the hump because the Spartans took advantage of sluggish post rotations to draw eight ‘plus one' opportunities, converting six of them into the maximum amount of points.

- By Benjamin Worgull – Badgernation.com

Series Notes:

The Badgers have won 6 of the last 11 meetings between the schools. UW is 13-8 against the Spartans under Bo Ryan, including a 3-0 record on neutral courts.

At least one team has been ranked in 20 of the last 21 meetings.

Two of the last four meetings have gone into overtime, with the Spartans winning both.

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin, which snapped a three-game tournament losing streak, earned its seventh semifinal berth and improved to 15-12 all-time in Big Ten Tournament play.

The Badgers extend their winning streak over Indiana to 10 games, marking the second-longest active streak over a single opponent in the Big Ten.

Rob Wilson tied the seventh-most points scored in a Big Ten Tournament game with 30.

After having nine lead changes in the first half, the Badgers, who moved to 19-1 when holding the halftime lead this season, never trailed in the second stanza.

Michigan State Notes:

Michigan State, which reaches the semifinals for the fourth time in the past five seasons, is 16-12 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament and 5-2 as the top seed.

Michigan State tied the fifth-most points scored by a Big Ten squad and broke the school record for most points in a BTT game with 92, surpassing the old mark of 76.

The Spartans recorded the most field goals (32), tied the most 3-pointers (8) and matched the second-most blocks (8) by a MSU squad in a BTT game.

The Spartans improved to 21-1 when leading at the half after scoring 55 points and shooting 70 percent (21-for-30) in the first half.

Prediction

In a flash, Michigan State went from undisputed Big Ten champion, tearing through Ohio State and pressing for a No. 1 seed -- to a team with serious questions about its postseason. The Spartans led Ohio State 24-9 midway through the first half of the March 4 game at Breslin Center, well on their way to a win and outright possession of the Big Ten championship. That's when talented freshman forward Branden Dawson went down after bumping knees with Ohio State's Will Buford.

Dawson clutched his left knee in pain. He was helped off the floor and went to get an MRI. The energy seemed to leave the building and the MSU bench. The Buckeyes outscored the Spartans 63-46 after that -- winning 72-70 on a Buford jumper with one second left and the 6-foot-6 Dawson not around to contest it.

About an hour later, the Spartans got worse news than the fact that they have to share the Big Ten title with Ohio State and Michigan. Dawson tore the ACL in the knee and is done for the season. Dawson averages 8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds a game, but his value goes beyond the numbers. He is arguably MSU's most athletic player, capable of making momentum-changing plays on both ends.

"Coach (Izzo) is a mastermind so he'll figure it out. ... It won't be my job, it'll be coach's job to figure it out, and I'm sure he will," Green said. "In 2010 we lost our best player (Kalin Lucas) and were able to reach the Final Four after losing our best player in the second round. So it wouldn't be the end of the world, it would be a tough loss for us. But when someone goes down, that's someone else's opportunity to step up."

Those players were Payne and Wood against Iowa. Payne went 7-for-8 for 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds while Wood chipped in 10 points, one of four Michigan State players in double figures in a 92-point blitzing of Iowa.

So not only will UW need to worry about Green – who is averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds against MSU this year – and Appling, averaging 18 points vs. UW, Wisconsin will have to worry about the role players.

Short of Wilson scoring 30 points, I am not a huge fan of this match-up for Wisconsin. Granted, UW has never lost in the BTT semifinals under Bo Ryan, but Wilson's performance overshadowed the fact that Wisconsin's defense survived a lot of breakdowns while allowing Indiana to score 71 points – the second-most points an opponent as scored this year against UW – and shoot 49 percent from the floor.

UW has some momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament. Question is how much will that momentum soften after it loses to Michigan State by 10 points? We shall see.

Worgull's Record: 25-7

Points off Prediction: 294 (9.19 per game)


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