In what amounted to a Big Ten title elimination game, No.22 Wisconsin's inability to score the basket and secure loose rebounds sent them back home with a 58-43 loss to No.10 Michigan State in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicated.
Michigan State (23-7, 12-5 Big Ten) keeps alive its opportunity to win a share of its fourth conference championship since 2009 by beating the Badgers for the fifth straight time and eighth in the last 10 meetings.
Wisconsin (20-10, 11-6) enters Sunday afternoon's regular season finale at Penn State (10-19, 2-15) playing only for tournament seeding instead of its first conference championship since 2008.
Now needing to win Sunday and have No.2 Indiana win at No.7 Michigan to clinch a first round bye for the 12th straight season, Wisconsin hasn't won at the Breslin Center since 2004. During that span, UW has won at every Big Ten arena at least twice.
"Frustration, disappointment, everything like that," said senior forward Jared Berggren, who won at every Big Ten arena except Michigan State in his career. "It sucks. There's nothing we can do about it now, but try to learn from our mistakes and move forward."
Figuring out how to make a few buckets will be the place to start.
Shooting 29.6 percent in the second half of Sunday's home loss to Purdue, the hangover carried over for Wisconsin. Making seven field goals in the first half and eight in the second half, the Badgers finished 15-for-51 from the floor, shooting 29.4 percent that was a season low.
Just like when senior forward Ryan Evans was questioned if his free throw problems were becoming a mental issue, the Badgers' shooting woes are drawing similar questions after shooting less than 33.3 percent in three straight halves.
"We had some good looks, we didn't hit them," said UW coach Bo Ryan, as Wisconsin two lowest point totals on the season (47 and 43) have come against Michigan State. "I don't think we're this bad shooting wise but you have to be careful saying that because there's more games (left)."
But as bad as its offense, UW's post defense was equally sporadic. Although only out rebounded by two, Michigan State's first five buckets told the game's entire story. Generating 20 points in the paint in the team's first meeting, the Spartans controlled the paint and bruised the Badgers on second chance points.
Michigan State turned 16 offensive rebounds into 11 second-chance points, as junior guard Keith Appling scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half to help the Spartans build a lead that swelled to 23.
"That killed us, too," said Berggren.
"That was embarrassing," added Sam Dekker. "They wanted it more, and it showed on those hustle plays on the glass."
The Spartans' first bucket from the perimeter was an Appling 3-pointer, which was set up after Michigan State corralled two offensive rebounds. Ryan was so irritated that he benched his starters in favor of Evan Anderson and Zach Bohannon, who have combined to play 32 minutes in conference play.
"We replaced them because they must have been tired," said Ryan. "That's my reasoning."
It got worse. After Berggren scored the opening bucket of the second half, Michigan State went on a 16-0 run that was more of the same: attacking the post, offensive rebound put backs and a lack of response from Wisconsin, which went 0-for-12 from the field during that stretch.
"Everything just fizzled," said Dekker, who ended the 7:27 scoreless drought with a layup. "It happened so quick, too."
The offensive drought extends to all areas. Only Dekker shot over 40 percent and the Badgers' 3-point clunkers continued. Since Ben Brust made a 3-pointer with 6:59 remaining in the first half against the Boilermakers, Wisconsin is 4-for-40 (10 percent) from 3-point range.
"There are definitely shots there and all these guys have made them before," said Brust. "You can't stop shooting them, I guess."
It could be argued that Wisconsin didn't even play smart, finishing with more turnovers (17, a season high) than made field goals (15). When asked, Brust said the turnovers were mostly them and not because of the Spartans.
"We just need to take care of the ball better," said Brust. "(Seventeen) turnovers is just mind blogging, but we did, so we have to take responsibility for it."
Having a chance to cut the lead to one possession on the final possession of the half, Bruesewitz attempted a 3-pointer with too much time on the clock in the final 10 seconds. Michigan State got the rebound, when into transition and Travis Trice buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Spartans a 25-18 lead. They never looked back.
"Anytime you can hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer like that going into halftime, you have to feel good about yourself, especially on your home floor like that," said Berggren. "They definitely fed off that and we let them get going from there."
"At the end of the day, we put ourselves in this situation," added Brust. "So we have to take responsibility for what we did on the court."