It was clear early in the game that Nigel Hayes and Frank Kaminsky were going to have good outings for Wisconsin. Combining for the first 19 points of the game, Wisconsin didn’t get points from anyone else until the 6:30 mark of the first half. The success Wisconsin’s offense found came around the basket with 34 points, including its first 10 points, as the combination of Hayes and Kaminsky helped the Badgers’ frontcourt take advantage of Michigan State’s lack of interior size.
Kaminsky led all scorers with a season-high 31 points on 11-for-17 shooting from the field in 37 minutes. Hayes was second with 14 points, including 10 in the first half on an efficient 5 of 6 shooting. Josh Gasser was third with nine points and Sam Dekker had eight points. Overall Wisconsin shot 26-for-50 (52 percent) from the field.
The frontcourt for Wisconsin did well of consistently drawing fouls against Michigan State, forcing 18 in the game, by being aggressive and driving the ball into the paint. That led to UW going 12-for-15 from the line.
With Wisconsin shooting better than 50 percent for the first time since Feb.3, there weren’t many opportunities to get offensive rebounds. Even so, that didn’t stop UW from getting its hands on nine second-chance opportunities. Dekker led the way with three offensive rebounds, while Kaminsky and Duje Dukan each grabbed two in the game. Wisconsin could have done a better job of capitalizing, however, finishing with 10 second-chance points.
As usual, Wisconsin did well of taking care of the ball. Finishing with only eight turnovers, no player had more than two turnovers and UW’s starting backcourt – Josh Gasser and Bronson Koenig – each had only one miscue. With Wisconsin consistently passing the ball well and working to get the best shot, it was difficult for the Spartans to get their hand on the ball, only recording three steals in the game.
The Wisconsin defense was good in many areas. Limiting paint touches, Wisconsin held the Spartans to 22 points in the paint and a season-low 24 rebounds, but the Badgers did allow many uncontested 3-point shots that kept the Spartans in the game. Fifteen of Michigan State’s 25 first-half points came from the perimeter, and the Spartans finished the game 9-for-17 (52.9 percent). Outside 3-point range, Wisconsin limited Michigan State to only 15 made field goals, as the Spartans finished the game 24-for-53 (45.3 percent) from the field.
Bryn Forbes was one of three players for Michigan State to score in double figures and led Michigan State in scoring with 21 points off the bench. Forbes in particular was able to get himself into an offensive rhythm, as he went 5-for-5 from three and hit a handful of shots despite defenders trying to get a hand in his face to contest. Travis Trice was second with 16 points, and Denzel Valentine finished the game with 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting from the field.
Valentine had scored at least 20 points in the last two games, but the Badgers’ defense, especially Gasser and Hayes, consistently forced him into tough shots and prevented him from finding an offensive rhythm. Valentine really was only able to find success when he found space off of a 3-point attempt (2-for-5).
Michigan State has been a strong rebounding team on the offensive glass all year, but Wisconsin limited the Spartans to seven offensive rebounds. Branden Dawson, who came in to the Big Ten leading the Spartans in offensive rebounds a game, was a non-factor for most of the game after Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo removed him from the starting lineup. Dawson only had two total rebounds (both on the offensive glass), and Michigan State was able to register 13 points off of its second chances.
It was a close first half until Wisconsin went on a 15-8 run over the last 5:57 to build an 11-point halftime lead. Starting the second half on an 11-0 run, Wisconsin maintained a double-digit lead until the final minute.
The Badgers forced seven turnovers, three off of steals that turned into six points, but the big victory was winning the rebounding battle. Michigan State has consistently outrebounded its opponents this year, having a plus-8 margin, but the Badgers finished with a 35-24 edge on the boards by consistently getting better position off of missed shots on both ends of the floor. The frontcourt for Wisconsin deserves a lot of credit of making sure that they a) didn’t allow Dawson to impact the game and b) get Gavin Schilling into foul trouble, which took off some size for the Spartans.
Zak Showalter was the only Badger to score off the bench with his steal and driving layup. Overall the bench was able to combine for five rebounds in the game.
Game MVP: Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky had a memorable senior day game with 31 points and was consistently able to find success on offense or defense. The Spartans had no answer for him. Even when he wasn’t down low and on the perimeter, he was still a threat to score and finished with a team-high three 3-pointers on four attempts, usually coming late in the shot clock. Kaminsky consistently looked to try and score from the block and converted on some tremendously difficult-looking shots. His success also opened up other shots for his teammates, which helped him registered three assists.
As good as Kaminsky was on offense, he was just good on defense by finishing with three blocks, two steals and consistently contested shots. Without question, he’s deserving of Big Ten and national player of the year honors.