Game Day Grades - Michigan State

CHICAGO - With a combination of aggressive shot selection and buckling down defensively, top-seeded Wisconsin quickly erased an 11-point deficit, delivered counterpunches to force overtime and took control in the extra session to win the program's third Big Ten tournament title. BadgerNation hands out the grades.

Offense: A-

Wisconsin lead Michigan State 10 times throughout the game but it wasn’t until the overtime session that Wisconsin could get up more than two possession. Down 57-46 with 7:46 to go, the Badgers’ offense had one big rally in them by closing the half on a 23-12 run to force overtime. When it was done, Wisconsin finished the game on a 34-12 run, shooting 54.5 percent in the second half and 50 percent in overtime.

The trio of Bronson Koenig (10), Frank Kaminsky (8) and Nigel Hayes (5) led the charge on the comeback by combining to score the last 23 points of regulation, as they combined to shoot 7-for-9 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free throw line.

With the strong finish, Wisconsin ended the game 25-for-52 (48.1 percent) from the field, only having one scoring drought of more than four minutes in the first half. Hayes led Wisconsin in scoring for the fifth time this season after he tied his career high with 25 points, his third 20-point performance this season. Hayes was also critical on the free throw line by going 12-for-12 in his most attempts this season.

Kaminsky – the tournament’s most outstanding player - was second in scoring with 19 points on 8-for-16 shooting and was second on the team with four assists. Koenig scored 18 points, 17 of which came in the second half and overtime, while Duje Dukan had 11 points off the bench - his first double-digit scoring game since mid-January.

The Michigan State defense forced Wisconsin into seven turnovers, as the Spartans’ traps forced the Badgers into bad passes. Even with the havoc being created at times, Wisconsin’s defense responded by limiting Michigan State to only eight points off the turnovers. Koenig led the team with three turnovers but only one came after halftime.

Even with a size advantage inside, Wisconsin could only grab four offensive rebounds (none in the second half) against Michigan State’s athleticism, leading to only five second-chance points and snapping a three game streak of double-digit offensive rebounds.

Defense: B+

At times the Wisconsin defense made it too easy for Michigan State, evident by the 27-for-53 (50.9 percent) shooting performance, the seventh time Wisconsin allowed a team to shoot better than 50 percent. UW made up for it in overtime, shutting out Michigan State with the Spartans going 0-for-6 with two turnovers.

Travis Trice entered the game averaging 19 points into the tournament, but was held in check by senior Josh Gasser and finished with six points on 2-for-8 shooting. Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine led the Spartans with 16 points each and both shot better than 50 percent, a big reason why Michigan State had a 36-20 edge in points in the paint and had seven offensive rebounds.

Bryn Forbes was third with 10 points, but Wisconsin did a much better job of defending him after he scored 23 points in Madison two weeks ago. The key with Forbes was making sure UW kept him off the 3-point line (5-for-5 on March 1), a success since Gasser and Koenig held him to 1-for-3 shooting from the perimeter. Overall Michigan State went 6-for-14 from three, including 4-for-8 in the second half.

Even though Valentine and Dawson led the Spartans in scoring, they finished the game with four and three turnovers, respectively. Trice also finished with four turnovers, as Michigan State finished with 13 turnovers that led to 16 Wisconsin points and contributed to UW’s fierce rally, as the Badgers forced three turnovers in the final 6:17 that led to six critical points.

One thing Wisconsin did very well this tournament was limiting the fouls. After averaging six personal fouls the first two games, Wisconsin finished with 11 against Michigan State, but two of those by Kaminsky were perfectly executed in the final seconds of the second half.

After Koenig tied the game at 69 with 8.8 seconds remaining, Wisconsin had three fouls to give and used them wisely. Kaminsky committed both fouls to chip the clock down to just over two seconds, limiting the options for the Spartans’ final shot.

Overall: A

It was an impressive comeback by Wisconsin, one that will be talked about for a while and go down as one of the most exciting games in Wisconsin history. Completely being outplayed and down 11 with 7:45 to go, Wisconsin erased that lead, and then some, in just 3 minutes, 29 seconds.

Even though there were three lead changes over the final 4:16 of the game, Wisconsin never seemed to be out of control from that point forward and never appeared panicked. Wisconsin went 2-for-3 from the field and 4-for-4 from the line over that stretch and the momentum clearly carried over into the overtime with the Badgers going 2-for-2 from 3-point range and 5-for-7 from the line, all the points being scored by Hayes (seven) and Koenig (four).

Game MVP: Bronson Koenig. Koenig was phenomenal in the second half and overtime, especially after an auspicious start. After starting 0-for-2 and without a bucket for nearly 30 minutes, Koenig stepped up in a big way by finishing 5-for-10 from the field. Koenig was key in getting the run started to help cut into the 11-point deficit, as he was able to hit a 3-pointers out of a 30 second timeout. In the final stretch run of the second half, Koenig went 3-for-3 from the field and registered three assists in that time span.

What changed for Koenig was he started to become more aggressive in the second half and looked to drive the basketball more. He was able to find success by getting to the free throw and knock down pressure free throws. Overall Koenig finished the game 18 points, four rebounds, and a career-high nine assists in 42 minutes.

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