Breakdown: No.3 Michigan State vs. No.1 UW

Squaring off in the Big Ten tournament finals for the first time this afternoon, top-seeded Wisconsin is looking for a Big Ten title sweep while Michigan State is looking to defend its tournament title. BadgerNation takes a closer look at the Spartans' semifinal comeback over Maryland and break down the matchup.

No.3 Michigan State (23-10, 12-6 Big Ten) vs. No.1 Wisconsin (30-3, 16-2 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Sunday, March 15, 2:30 p.m. Central

Arena –United Center (20,917)

Television -CBS (Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson)

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

Series – Michigan State leads 75-62 (Michigan State leads 5-3 on neutral courts)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 68-61, on March 1, 2015 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 12.1 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-9 Junior Forward, 13.1 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-4 Senior Guard, 7.0 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 8.2 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Senior Forward, 18.2 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 2.1 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-10 Senior Forward, 4.7 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Sophomore Guard, 2.0 ppg)

Michigan State Probable Starters

11 Lourawls Nairn Jr. (5-10 Freshman Guard, 2.2 ppg)

20 Travis Trice (6-0 Senior Guard, 15.1 ppg)

22 Branden Dawson (6-6 Senior Forward, 11.8 ppg)

34 Gavin Schilling (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 5.4 ppg)

45 Denzel Valentine (6-5 Junior Guard, 14.4 ppg)

Off the Bench

0 Marvin Clark Jr. (6-6 Freshman Forward, 4.8 ppg)

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

5 Bryn Forbes (6-3 Junior Guard, 8.6 ppg)

10 Matt Costello (6-9 Junior Forward, 7.4 ppg)

Last Meeting

MADISON - Kaminsky scored a season-high 31 points, as No.5 Wisconsin capped off its home season with a 68-61 victory over Michigan State, one of its fiercest rivals, to clinch a share of its first Big Ten regular season title in seven years.

The Badgers (26-4, 14-2 Big Ten) have a chance to win the title outright by winning one of its two final regular season games, starting at Minnesota (17-12, 6-10 Big Ten) Thursday.

“When you put in the work they have and have players that have been as dedicated as these guys are, it’s fun to want (more),” said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who earned his fourth Big Ten regular season title as a head coach. “I just hope that each day they come to practice, they’re working on satisfying the want, and that is being successful, continuing to play as long as we want.”

Wisconsin shot 52.0 percent – its best shooting game since Feb.3 vs. Indiana - and never looked back thanks to a 15-0 run between halves that was driven by post touches.

In the first half of its 59-53 loss to Maryland, UW scored three points over a 13 possession span and relied heavily on the 3-point shot (1-for-11 in the first half). UW didn’t make the same mistake twice.

The Badgers scored 34 points in the paint, including the first eight points of the decisive run and another four from the free throw line as a result of attacking the basket.

“We knew they were a physical team, so we had to get something going inside,” said Kaminsky, whose points were the most he’s ever scored in a conference game. “Against Maryland we settled for a lot of shots and didn’t want that to happen again.”

Not only did he finish 11-for-17 shooting, Kaminsky was 3-for-4 from 3-point range, 6-for-8 from the free throw line, had eight rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals.

“He was ready to play,” Ryan said of Kaminsky. “He was not going to be denied.”

Thanks in part to sophomore Nigel Hayes 14 points and Gasser’s 9, Wisconsin’s starters outscored Michigan State 59-26. Kaminsky and Hayes scored the Badgers’ first 19 points, scored a combined 22 points in the paint and shot 12 of 15 in the opening 20 minutes and 17 of 26 for the game.

“I thought we did a real good job of misdirecting, ball fakes, getting the ball into the post, getting guys in position to score,” said Ryan. “Individually guys still had to make the moves. Nigel had some great counters. Frank, obviously, had some great counters. The two of them in the first half, that was quite a show they put on with their post moves.”

The Spartans entered the week No. 1 in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage defense (.384) and No. 2 behind UW in scoring defense (61.1), but Michigan State allowed the Badgers to shoot 59.3 percent in the first half.

It was a breath of fresh air considering Wisconsin’s offense has averaged 61.5 points and 42.3 percent over the last six games, including the conference-low 53 points against the Terrapins, after averaging 75.7 points and shooting 50.2 percent in the first nine games of the conference season.

That was just part of the problem for the Spartans. Leading the conference in defensive rebounding percentage, Michigan State was out rebounded 35-24, a season-low. Michigan State didn’t score much either, as Wisconsin held the Spartans’ top three scorers – Denzel Valentine, Branden Dawson and Travis Trice (a group averaging 41.3 points) – to 30 points on 11-for-27.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Last Time Out

CHICAGO - After trailing at halftime for only the fourth time this season, No.6 Wisconsin tightened up defensively and exploded offensively, resulting in an opening 29-9 run that gave the top-seeded Badgers a 71-51 victory over fourth-seeded Purdue Saturday in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

Bronson Koenig’s career-high 19 points led the four players in double figures for Wisconsin, which played a stretch of basketball in the second half that was as good as it has played all year, highlighted by crisp passing, timely offensive rebounds and a couple of Dekker dunks that caused the pro-Wisconsin crowd to explode and Purdue to become unglued.

A different team after halftime, Wisconsin scored nine points from the 3-point line, eight points in the paint, eight points off jumpers and four points from the free throw line on their game-changing run, a balance that was missing in the first half when UW settled for jumpers instead of attacking Purdue’s bigs in the paint.

More importantly Wisconsin started pushing the ball, gassing the Boilermakers (21-12) in the process.

“When we do that, we’re definitely one of the best teams in the country,” said Koenig.

The deflating moments were countless on the run that went the first 13:42 of the second half, a handful of them created by the energy of Hayes and Showalter. Hayes grabbed three offensive boards, leading to a Koenig 3-pointer to tie the game in the opening minutes and a Josh Gasser 3-pointer to give UW its first double-digit lead.

Showalter grabbed three rebounds (two offensive) in seven minutes off the bench and capped the run with a pair of free throws off a miss.

“That’s a back breaker,” said associate head coach Gary Close. “When you play as hard as they do defensively, you get a miss, you get an offensive rebound and score, that’s debilitating.”

After going 1-for-6 in the first half, Koenig went 6-for-8 in the second half, including a pair of buckets with the shot clock about to expire on the scoring binge. He also had a stretch where he scored seven straight UW points via a jumper, 3-pointer and a layup.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Series Notes

Wisconsin is 3-4 all-time in the Big Ten tournament vs. Michigan State, yet the two programs have never met in the championship game. UW has played MSU more than any other team in the Big Ten tournament.

UW is 15-12 vs. the Spartans under Bo Ryan. Since Ryan took over at UW in 2001-02, the Badgers are the only Big Ten team to own a winning record against Michigan State (min. 3 games).

Including Sunday’s matchup, at least one team has been ranked in 27 of the last 28 meetings.

Bo Ryan (.719) and MSU head coach Tom Izzo (.687) currently rank 1st and 3rd, respectively, in career Big Ten win percentage.

Over the last 15 meetings vs. MSU, the Badgers have limited the Spartans to an average of 59.7 ppg.

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin is looking for its 3rd Big Ten tournament title, having won in 2004 and 2008. Since Bo Ryan took over in 2001-02, Ohio State (3) is the only team with more than two Big Ten tourney titles. Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State have all won twice.

UW has committed just 12 total fouls in 2 Big Ten tournament games this weekend. The Badgers are averaging just 12.1 fouls per game on the season. Since 1993, only 3 teams have finished with fewer than 13.0 fouls per game.

After committing just 3 turnovers vs. Purdue, Wisconsin lowered its season average to just 7.42 turnovers per game. The Badgers are on pace to set the NCAA record — a mark UW originally set in 2010-11.

UW is now 31-7 (.816) away from home over the last two seasons, including a mark of 15-2 this season. The Badgers have gone 5-0 in neutral sites and 10-2 in true road games. Wisconsin owns the most road/neutral wins and the 3rd-best win percentage away from home among major conference teams.

UW and Arizona are the only teams to win at least 30 games in each of the last 2 seasons. The Badgers were 30-8 last season. Badgers need two more wins to set a new single-season school record.

Michigan State Notes

The Spartans senior class moved to 9-1 in Big Ten tournament games.

Michigan State is 24-13 in the Big Ten tournament, 11-6 when the tournament is in Chicago and 4-0 in the tournament finals.

Trice and Dawson combined for 27 points in the win over Maryland, shooting 13 for 23 from the field.

Prediction

Down by as many as 16 points in the first half, Michigan State – which hadn’t beat a top 10 team all year – clawed its way back to down eight at halftime and outscored Maryland by 12 in the second half to advance to this afternoon’s final, hoping to defend their Big Ten tournament title. How did they do it?

“I have no idea; I’m just glad it worked out,” said junior Matt Costello, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half. “We started playing basketball. They started missing some shots, which helped. They had wide-open shots in the beginning and we started playing defense. It worked out well for us.”

Although Costello wasn’t too sure, the difference in the second half for Michigan State was its defense. Finishing fifth in the conference in scoring defense (62.9) and third in field goal percentage defense (39.7) during the regular season, Michigan State held Maryland to 36 percent shooting in the second half and 3-for-11 from 3-point range.

Bringing more energy and appearing to communicate better, the Spartans cut off the driving lanes for freshman Melo Trimble, who scored nine of his 22 points in the second half (five of which came in the final 16 seconds).

“We did a great job bringing energy, especially off the bench,” said Clark.

Michigan State is typically not a program that celebrates wins in the Big Ten tournament semifinals, especially for a program that’s 4-0 in tournament finals. But considering the Spartans got swept by the Terrapins in the regular season, losing at home by two in double overtime and getting blown out by 16 in College Park, Saturday afternoon meant a little something more.

“How we won this game and fighting back and guys starting to play well, it wasn’t so much the quote semifinal victory, it was how we won,” Costello said.

Coming into the three-day tournament, Marvin Clark Jr. said the mission was about trying to get revenge against the teams that had “embarrassed them” during its six-loss conference season. After erasing two of those losses Saturday, the Spartans are hoping to erase another ugly one this afternoon against Wisconsin.

Just two weeks ago, the Spartans saw the power of Kaminsky, who tallied 31 points (11-17 FG, 3-4 3FG), seven rebounds, three assists and three steals on Senior Day. Michigan State lost by only seven, but it was purely window dressing in a game UW led by as many as 22.

“We’ve got to bring a lot more energy than when we brought when we played Wisconsin there,” said Clark. “From a team standpoint, (the bench has) got to help them. We’ve got to shrink the floor like we did against Melo. When (Frank) gets the ball, we need to make sure we have eyes on him and make sure our bigs have help.”

The Spartans also limited Dez Wells (10 points, 7 rebounds) and made forward Jake Layman, who was averaging 13.0 points per game, into a non-scoring factor with only six points on 1-for-3 shooting. They’ll have an even bigger challenge against the likes of Dekker, Hayes, Gasser and Koenig.

In UW’s March 1 win, Hayes went 6-for-9, Gasser had nine points and Dekker had nine rebounds. While Koenig went 2-for-7 from the field, he’s coming off a career-high 19 points against Purdue in the tournament semifinals.

“We’ve got to guard (Kaminsky), but we’ve got to limit everybody else,” said Trice. “Kaminsky is a great player and he’s going to get his, but we have to take away the other people and not let the other guys get off.

Much like the issues Wisconsin presents, the Badgers will have their work cut out defensively. Trice scored 18 points against Ohio State and 20 against Maryland, hitting 3 of 5 3-pointers in 36 minutes and Dawson – after being challenged by Izzo at halftime – scored 8 of his 17 points in the second half on 6 of 10 shooting.

“He’s a game changer,” Trice said of Dawson, who was benched for the start of the game against Wisconsin and scored only four points. “Coming in here at halftime, coach challenged him, saying you’re going to play or I’m not going to play you anymore. He had a choice whether he was going to answer and he responded well. When he plays like that, he’s a monster.”

Whether they admit it or not, Wisconsin players wanted another crack at Maryland after the Badgers’ poor first half set up their latest loss Feb.24. They settle for another tough matchup, especially when Dawson and Trice play like they did on Saturday.

Although I can make a strong care for Michigan State to win this game, the momentum Wisconsin created in the second half against the Boilermakers was memorable. If they can play up to that defensive level, get the same type of scoring pop from Koenig and get a little bit more from Kaminsky, Wisconsin hoists its second title of the year.

Badgers by six.

Worgull's Record: 31-2

Points off Prediction: 245 (7.4 per game)


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