Breakdown: No.22 MSU vs No.12 Wisconsin

Pointed in the right direction after blowing out Minnesota, No.12 Wisconsin looks to advance to its seven Big Ten tournament finals and get past another familiar foe when it takes on No.22 Michigan State this afternoon. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup.

No.22 Michigan State (24-8, 12-6 Big Ten) vs No.12 Wisconsin (26-6, 12-6 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Saturday, March 15, 3 p.m. Central

Arena –Bankers Life Fieldhouse (18, 345)

Television -CBS (Kevin Harlan, Greg Anthony,Steve Kerr & Tracy Wolfson)

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

Series – Michigan State leads 74-61 (Michigan State leads 4-3 in neutral sites)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 60-58, on February 9, 2014 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 12.9 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 10.4 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 12.8 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 9.2 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 13.1 ppg)

Off the Bench

10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 8.2 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 2.6 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.3 ppg)

Michigan State Probable Starters

5 Adreian Payne (6-10 Senior Forward, 15.6 ppg)

11 Keith Appling (6-1 Senior Guard, 12.6 ppg)

14 Gary Harris (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 17.3 ppg)

22 Branden Dawson (6-6 Junior Guard, 10.0 ppg)

45 Denzel Valentine (6-5 Sophomore Guard, 8.3 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 Alvin Ellis (6-4 Freshman Guard, 2.0 ppg)

10 Matt Costello (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 4.5 ppg)

20 Travis Trice (6-0 Junior Guard, 7.2 ppg)

30 Kenny Kaminski (6-8 Freshman Forward, 5.5 ppg)

Last Time Out

INDIANAPOLIS – Senior leadership is imperative to survive March's madness. Wisconsin will be in for a deep postseason run if it has senior guard Ben Brust playing at his best.

Brust recorded a career-high in scoring with 29 points, leading No.12 Wisconsin into the Big Ten tournament semifinals with an 83-57 victory over Minnesota.

Wisconsin (26-6) shot 64 percent in the second half – 54.5 percent for the game – and put four players in double figures, but the Badgers' well-balanced offense didn't need much help aside from Brust.

"As long as we get the win, that's all that matters here in March," said Brust, who went 8-for-15 from the floor and 9-for-9 from the free throw line. "I came out and things started falling I just wanted to play with energy."

Wisconsin's scoring is often spread throughout the stat sheet, with four of its starters averaging double-figure totals. Yet, the Badgers had starters Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson go scoreless, and got a season-high 38 bench points thanks to Nigel Hayes' 15 points (13 in the second half) and Bronson Koenig's career-high 14.

However, Friday's victory was all about one guy—the Badgers' senior leader.

"[Brust is] a hard matchup for some guys defensively because of the way he moves," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.

Although Wisconsin delivered its highest scoring output since January 8, stifling defense is what helped key the victory. Minnesota (20-13) was held to just 32.8 percent from the field. The Golden Gophers were led by Deandre Mathieu's 18 points, while Joey King chipped in with 14. However, their offense was relatively quiet for most of the game, since UW limited Gophers' leading scorer Andre Hollins (14.4 ppg) to eight points on 2-for-14 shooting.

The outcome was never in question for Wisconsin. The closest Minnesota would cut the lead in the second half was eight, coming with 17:46 remaining. When the Gophers made a 7-0 push to cut the lead to 10 with just over nine minutes to go, it was Brust connecting on a long three-pointer that help cushion the lead. Wisconsin finished the game outscoring the Gophers by a 33-17 mark.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Last Meeting

MADISON - One could understand why Wisconsin's players briefly lost composure, starting to celebrate before sprinting back on defense for the final seconds. After all, the Badgers haven't had many moments to celebrate about in the past few weeks.

"We got a little ahead of ourselves," said junior Josh Gasser.

Good thing the final seconds didn't do anything to take away Traevon Jackson's latest chapter in late-game heroics.

Jackson gave Wisconsin and its fan base reason to celebrate after hitting a tough two-point jumper with 2.1 seconds left, giving the Badgers a 60-58 win over No.9 Michigan State in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 17,249 at the Kohl Center.

It had been over three years since Wisconsin (19-5, 6-5 Big Ten) beat Michigan State, as the Spartans' five game series winning streak was based off State's stingy defense. In Wisconsin's losing streak to the Spartans, the Badgers had shot less than 35 percent from the field in each game and shot 25 percent from 3-point range.

This time it was UW who dictated the defense, limiting the Spartans (20-4, 9-2) to 40 percent from the floor and 26.3 percent from 3-point range. UW finished 45.2 percent from the floor, 39.1 percent from 3-point range and put four players in double figures.

"(Defense) is what we've both hung our hats on," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "It was hard getting an easy look."

Not for Jackson in the final 8.7 seconds, who dribbled the length of the court, hesitated slightly around the perimeter, started to drive to the basket off a screen from Frank Kaminsky and pulled up to hit the winner.

"His decision making has been a little sporadic at times but in a last second situation, if it starts in his hands, I feel very confident we're going to get something," said Ryan. "Doesn't mean he has to take the shot, but he was wide open on that pull up."

Jackson wasn't alone in delivering timely contributions. Hayes delivered a team-high 14 points, one of four players in double figures, but Wisconsin got critical 3-pointers from struggling shooters Ben Brust and Kaminsky in the final minutes.

Brust – missing his first seven 3-pointers – made his only perimeter shot with 3:37 left to give Wisconsin a 55-48 lead, while Kaminsky, 2-for-12 from three over his seven games, hit his 3-pointer with 29 seconds left, giving UW a 58-53 advantage.

Michigan State was playing without standout guards Keith Appling (wrist) and Branden Dawson (hand), but got 24 points from senior center Adreian Payne, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key that tied the score at 58 before Jackson's winner.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Series Notes

Wisconsin has played Michigan State more than any other team in the Big Ten tournament (seven). Each team has won three times, with Michigan State winning the most recent meeting in 2002 (65-52).

UW is 14-11 against the Spartans under Bo Ryan. UW's win in February broke a five game Michigan State winning streak.

Including Saturday's match-up, at least one team has been ranked in 24 of the last 25 meetings.

Izzo (19 years) and Ryan (13 years) are the 2 longest-tenured coaches in the Big Ten. Izzo (216) and Ryan (149) also rank 1-2 in career Big Ten wins among active coaches.

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin will play in the semifinals for the third- straight season, going 1-1 in that game over the last two years.

UW's 83 points was its highest total in a Big Ten tournament game, surpassing the previous high of 79 against Indiana in 2012.

Wisconsin held the Gophers to just 57 points, the Badgers' best defensive effort since a 76-49 win at North- western in the Big Ten opener on Jan. 2, 2014. UW has held 11 teams below 60 points this season.

The Badgers' 26-point win over Minnesota was their biggest margin of victory in a Big Ten tournament game and the 4th-largest in the history of the B1G Tourney.

UW shot 54.5% from the field, the team's highest mark since shooting 56.1% in a 95-70 win over Illinois on Jan. 8, 2014. The Badgers have shot at least 50% in 8 games this season.

Wisconsin went 10-for-24 from 3-point range. The Badgers' 10 triples were their most since hitting 10 at Illinois on Feb. 4, 2014. UW has posted double-digit 3-pointers 8 times this season.

Michigan State Notes

The Spartans led by as many as 24 points in their 67-51 win over Northwestern. MSU's 16-point margin of victory is the fifth largest for MSU in Big Ten Tournament history.

Michigan State has improved to 11-6 in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, 20-13 overall in tournament history.

Indiana natives Branden Dawson (16) and Gary Harris (13) combined for 26 points in their home state. Dawson also led MSU with nine rebounds and shot 8-for-12. He tied his career-high eight made field goals. The Spartans are undefeated this season when Dawson scores in double figures. The 16 points were the most for Dawson since scoring 20 at Penn State on Dec. 31.

Prediction

Wisconsin assistant coach Gary Close has seen a lot of good post players can through the program over his last 11 seasons, but he doesn't remember having as big of impact in his first year than Nigel Hayes, especially when Hayes' unleashes his quick first step, nicknamed ‘The Chocolate Tornado.'

At one point in the second half Hayes paced the offense by himself – scoring seven straight points with less than seven minutes left in the game – expanding UW's lead to 62-45. He finished with 15 points (13 of the second half), shooting 6-for-9 from the field and grabbed six rebounds.

"It's hard to duplicate," said Close. "It's quick, it's powerful, he's on balance. You can see it on tape but until you are out there doing it live, you can't appreciate it. He's got great confidence."

The confidence has been tested over the past month for the conference's sixth man of the year since the last time UW played Michigan State. Hayes had 14 points against the Spartans, part of a run of four straight games of at least 14 points.

And while Hayes might have finished the season scoring in single digits in five of the last six games, he never lost confidence and focused his efforts on rebounding, registering a season-best six rebounds in three of the last five games.

"That's all credit to Coach Ryan and the coaching staff," said Hayes. "They do a great job of preparing us for this as well as upperclassmen ... They do a great job of talking to us and explaining to us how situations would be for when we get out there and see that situation, we're already prepared to handle it. With the preparation we've been given, I feel like we go out there and execute and do pretty well."

The level of competition will be highly increased in round two for Wisconsin with another long time rival. Michigan State is athletic enough to get out in transition and crashes the glass with great regularity, especially with a healthy Payne back in the lineup. In their quarterfinals blowout over Northwestern, the Spartans out-rebounded the Wildcats 40-24, including a 20-to-5 edge in second-chance points and 13 offensive boards.

"They are so physical and talented on the perimeter that it's pretty much impossible to take everything away from them," said Gasser, an All-Big Ten defensive player. "Really, you have to clean up the glass with them. Adreian Payne hurt us a little bit. He's a really good player, so you can't hang your head too much on that. That's one thing we need to improve is getting on the glass, keep trying to make things hard on him."

Wisconsin did a decent job in its 60-58 victory in Madison last month, only losing the rebounding battle 31-29, holding the Spartans to 40 percent shooting and had Gasser hold Gary Harris 3-for-20. The Spartans had 28 points in the paint, but UW contesting shot on the perimeter led the Spartans to shoot 5-for-19 from 3-point range.

It was a performance similar to the one the Badgers turned in last night, holding the Gophers to 32.8 percent shooting, eight fast-break points and registered seven blocked shots.

"We got a lot of stops," said Close of UW's Friday win. "They never got a run. We played pretty solid defense all game long."

Like I said yesterday, Wisconsin is my pick to win the tournament. Michigan State is still trying to find its chemistry after Appling and Dawson returned to the lineup, while Wisconsin is clicking on all cylinders. The Badgers win this by four.

Worgull's Record: 22-10

Points off Prediction: 291 (9.1 per game)


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