Strike Three: Badgers foiled again by State

You wouldn't think Tom Izzo would so easily garner an upper hand in the rivalry with Bo Ryan, but that's what Izzo and Michigan State did Saturday by defeating cold-shooting Wisconsin 65-52 in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

INDIANAPOLIS – There are times the Wisconsin men's basketball team shoots the ball aesthetically, much like Ryan Braun laces home runs and doubles galore.

But on too many other occasions, the Badgers can't find the bottom of the basket, just as a Triple-A hitter tries to find his way.

No. 14 Wisconsin struck out in its third crack at No. 8 Michigan State, falling 65-52 in Saturday afternoon's Big Ten Tournament semifinal at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Badgers (24-9) shot 34.7 percent from the field despite making eight of their first 13 shots, opening up a 20-9 lead that lasted about as long as an intentional walk.

"You've got to be opportunistic. When you get (looks), you've got to make them if you expect to compete," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "You don't have to make all of them, but you've got to go a little better than the guy that won the batting crown."

For the record, Miguel Cabrera's .344 average led MLB in 2011, so the Badgers barely eclipsed that mark. However, in a basketball sense, they were hovering around the Mendoza Line on offense while Michigan State (26-7) took control.

Spartans guard Austin Thornton (12 points), who has started the last 10 games after spending most the year as a sixth man, splashed three consecutive 3-pointers to cut UW's lead to two.

Spanning 12 minutes, mostly the latter part of the first half, Michigan State enjoyed a 28-5 run that did not include a successful Wisconsin field goal.

Senior point guard Jordan Taylor and junior forward Ryan Evans combined for 37 of UW's 52 points, as their teammates shot 4-for-20. Two Wisconsin starters, Mike Bruesewitz and Josh Gasser, were scoreless.

"They just outworked us for that time span when they took the lead," Taylor said. "They're a good defensive team – they do that to a lot of teams. But we didn't do a good job moving without the ball. We just have to correct that for the (NCAA) tournament."

The Badgers, seeded fourth in the league tournament behind the tri-champions, await their seeding fate for the NCAAs, where they're still looking good for a top-four assignment.

Wisconsin senior reserve Rob Wilson, after trending worldwide on Twitter with his 30 points in the Badgers' quarterfinal defeat of Indiana Friday, was hounded on the perimeter, finishing with six points on five shots.

"I felt good for Bo, but bad for (IU coach) Tom Crean, because here's a guy averaging three points a game, and he has 30," MSU coach Tom Izzo said. "We did put a little more emphasis on a couple of things – every time he touched the ball, we wanted somebody's toes on his toes. And that's respect."

Added Evans, "Hopefully he still has that confidence for us going into the tournament."

MSU became just the second team to defeat the Badgers three times in a season in Bo Ryan's 11 years on the UW sideline, following NCAA runner-up Illinois (37-2) in 2004-05.

"It's almost impossible," Izzo said. "He's beaten us more than anybody that we've played. He's had our number, and still does in a lot of ways. Like us, they've had a heck of year. For some reason, we've been able to check pretty good against them."

The Spartans sustained a double-digit lead throughout the second half, earning a berth in its first Big Ten Tournament championship since winning back-to-back league tournaments in 1999-00, the last time MSU won a national title. The top-seeded Spartans will take on either No. 3 Ohio State, who crushed second-seed Michigan in the other semifinal.

Big Ten player of the year Draymond Green filled up the Spartans' stat sheet with 14 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and three blocks, amidst seven turnovers. Keith Appling chipped in 13 points and five helpers.

One of the country's premier rebounding squads, MSU was equaled on the boards 29-all by Wisconsin, but the Spartans shot 50 percent from the field, including 6-of-9 threes.

Wisconsin dropped to 3-3 against Michigan State in the league tournament, breaking a 3-game winning streak. Izzo's Spartans went on to win the crown after each of its previous Big Ten tourney triumphs over Wisconsin.

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