No.4 Michigan State (16-2, 3-2 Big Ten) vs. Wisconsin (9-9, 1-4 Big Ten)
Date/Time – Sunday, January 17, 12:30 p.m. central
Arena – Kohl Center (17,287)
Television – CBS (Andrew Catalon and Clark Kellogg)
Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Michigan State leads 75-63 (Wisconsin leads 45-24 in Madison)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 80-69, in overtime on March 15, 2015, in Chicago
WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS
3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Junior Guard, 8.3 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Junior Forward, 15.8 ppg)
22 Ethan Happ (6-9 Freshman Forward, 11.4 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Junior Guard, 13.6 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Junior Forward, 8.7 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
11 Jordan Hill (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 2.3 ppg)
15 Charlie Thomas (6-8 Freshman Forward, 3.4 ppg)
21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Freshman Forward, 3.2 ppg)
24 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Freshman Forward, 2.7 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Hayes scored a team-high 17 points on 5-for-10 shooting in Tuesday’s loss at Northwestern. The 50 percent shooting ties his third-highest shooting percentage this season and is just the third time Hayes has shot at least 40 percent on consecutive games.
MICHIGAN STATE PROBABLE STARTERS
5 Bryn Forbes (6-3 Senior Guard, 13.7 ppg)
10 Matt Costello (6-9 Senior Forward, 9.2 ppg)
11 Tum Tum Nairn Jr. (5-10 Sophomore Guard, 4.1 ppg)
34 Gavin Schilling (6-9 Junior Forward, 5.9 ppg)
45 Denzel Valentine (6-5 Senior Guard, 17.6 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
2 Javon Bess (6-5 Sophomore Forward, 4.5 ppg)
14 Eron Harris (6-3 Junior Guard, 9.7 ppg)
15 Marvin Clark Jr. (6-6 Sophomore Forward, 4.2 ppg)
20 Matt McQuaid (6-5 Freshman Guard, 3.4 ppg)
23 Deyonta Davis (6-10 Freshman Forward, 8.2 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
MSU is 13-1 with Valentine in the lineup this season, averaging 21.6 assists and a +13.4 rebounding margin. Without Valentine, the Spartans were 3-1, averaging 17.5 assists and a +9.8 rebounding margin.
LAST TIME OUT
EVANSTON, Ill. – After taking some steps forward over the past week, Northwestern competed harder than Wisconsin did during the Wildcats’ 70-65 victory in front of 7,264 fans at Welsh-Ryan Arena Tuesday night, the third straight loss for the Badgers.
For once the problem wasn’t Wisconsin’s offense. For the most part the Badgers shot the ball efficiently, finishing the game at 47.8 percent, but couldn’t continue the momentum they had started to establish over the last few games on the defensive end.
The Wildcats’ (15-3, 3-2) game plan was black and white: if the Badgers were going to pinch the 3-point line, they were going to relentlessly attack the paint. The result was the Wildcats scored 30 points in the paint and attempted 34 free throws (making 22). It carried over to the defensive end, as well, as Northwestern suffocated UW on the glass in a 34-25 edge.
“The past few games we’ve definitely taken steps forward, especially against teams like Indiana and Maryland who have quick guards who can get into the lane,” said Koenig, who finished with nine points (all in the second half), no assists and three turnovers. “Tonight I thought they killed us off ball screens.”
Sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh was the biggest beneficiary, punishing the Badgers off mismatches and scoring 12 of his game-high 28 points in the paint, not to mention setting up his teammates for 10 paint points on his five assists.
Like so many times this season, Wisconsin had chances to pull a win out late but couldn’t execute.
Down 61-55 with 2:39 left, UW went full-court press and managed to generate three turnovers on its half of the court down the stretch. Those turned into zero points, the biggest buzz kill coming with UW down 68-63 with 20.2 seconds left. Taking the ball out on the end line, Koenig found a driving lane at the top of the key but was whistled for an offensive foul – his fifth – underneath the basket with 12.6 seconds left.
CHICAGO – With its back firmly against the wall, Wisconsin closed the game on a 34-12 run, including scoring all 11 points in overtime, to shock third-seeded Michigan State, 80-69, for the Badgers’ third Big Ten tournament title and first since 2008.
Nigel Hayes tied his career high with 25 points and was a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line; Kaminsky finished with 19 points, including a huge 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation; Bronson Koenig – without a field goal and only one point through the first 29:17 – scored 17 of his 18 points down the stretch.
Dominating the paint and riding a wave of momentum from its semifinals victory over Maryland, Michigan State (23-11) nearly had two hands around its second straight Big Ten tournament trophy, and fifth overall, thanks to shooting over 60 percent midway through the second half and building its double-digit lead.
Like Wisconsin had done throughout the tournament, Michigan State’s run was quick and effective. After a Kaminsky layup gave Wisconsin a 38-34 lead, the Spartans executed a 23-8 run by pounding the paint and pushing the tempo. The Spartans first three buckets were engineered off back cuts for baskets at the rim, as Michigan State scored 14 of its 36 points in the paint on the jaunt.
It was then that the law of averages finally took over. It started simply enough, a Koenig 3-pointer to cut the lead to 57-49, appearing to be a blip on the radar after Gavin Schilling dunked home two points to push the lead back to 10.
But then Kaminsky had a 3-point play and the points keep coming: Koenig registered a layup, Hayes attacking for an old-fashioned 3-point play, Koenig with another 3-pointer and Hayes with two free throws.
In a span of five possessions, Wisconsin scored 14 points, a 14-3 run to tie the game.
From that point on it was a fight. Four more lead changes over the final 4:16 delivered countless turning points. Kaminsky’s a 3-pointer from the top of the key gave Wisconsin a 67-64 lead with 1:04 remaining, only to see Denzel Valentine (16 points) answer with a 3-pointer on the next possession over Kaminsky.
After Travis Trice, who Gasser limited to only six points, hit a layup with 44.9 left, Gasser dove into press row on the ensuing possession to save a rebound, a confused melee that caused Valentine to heave the ball down court, Dekker to retrieve the turnover and Koenig to hit two free throws to tie the game with 15 seconds left after driving to the rim.
Wisconsin methodically worked the clock down with fouls to give and when Dawson’s wing jumper rimmed out with no time remaining, the Badgers took control. Given new life, Wisconsin outscored Michigan State 11-0 in overtime, with Hayes (7) and Koenig (4) scoring all the points and the Spartans going 0-for-6 with two turnovers in the extra session.
Since 2002, the Badgers are 16-12 against Michigan State, the only team in the Big Ten with a winning record vs. MSU over that span. That record includes a mark of 10-2 at the Kohl Center.
The Spartans have not scored more than 64 points in any of the last 18 meetings in Madison (last time: a 78-64 MSU win in 1995).
Including Sunday’s matchup, at least one team has been ranked in 28 of the last 29 meetings.
Over the last 15 meetings vs. MSU, the Badgers have limited the Spartans to an average of 61.5 ppg
According to the RPI, Wisconsin has played the nation’s ninth-toughest schedule and its four Big Ten losses have come by an average 3.8 points
Overall this season, Wisconsin has lost five games by three points or less. The Badgers’ five home losses have come by a total of 14 points. UW has been tied or within one possession in the final 2:00 of all five games.
Despite dropping a 63-60 heartbreaker against No. 3 Maryland last weekend, Wisconsin has won six of its last nine games against teams ranked in the AP top five.
Every player in Wisconsin’s rotation has set a new career high for points this season.
MICHIGAN STATE NOTES
Costello is having his best season as a Spartan, averaging 9.2 points and 7.6 rebounds. More importantly, he has raised his game in the last six contests, four of which came with Valentine on the bench, averaging 12.7 points and a team-best 10.7 rebounds.
Michigan State is averaging 21.1 assists, ranking second in the nation, recording an assist on 372 of 516 field goals (72.1 percent).
Michigan State has shown the ability to overcome adversity during the 2015-16 season, as the Spartans have overcome double-figure deficits in three victories. MSU trailed Oakland by a season-high 15 points in the first half, and also trailed Kansas and Louisville by 13 points in the first half.
Michigan State ranks fifth in the Big Ten and 77th in the nation in free-throw percentage, shooting .721 from the foul line. While that percentage isn’t overly impressive, it’s certainly an improvement over last season when MSU ranked 330th in the nation, shooting 63.2 percent from the charity stripe.
From postgame Tuesday night to around 8 p.m. Thursday, I felt Wisconsin had a solid chance to knock off Michigan State. While the defense against Northwestern left little to be desired, the fact of the matter is that the Badgers lead the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 62 points per game, and have held 10 of their last 11 opponent below 1.0 points per possession.
Throw in the fact that UW seemed to finally find an offensive punch against the Wildcats and, simply put, the Badgers were due for a win after so many close defeats, a victory seemed like a good possibility.
My opinion changed after Iowa put a whooping on Sparty at the Breslin Center, scoring 47 points in the first half and hitting 10 3-pointers. Michigan State committed 16 turnovers, shot 4-for-21 from 3-point range and looked disjointed through long stretches of the game. You know a Tom Izzo team with this kind of experience won’t suffer the same problems in consecutive games.
This will be a test for the Badgers on multiple fronts. Iowa game aside, Michigan State shoots the ball well from 3-point range (38.4 percent), shoot 48.7 percent from the field and are +12.6 on the glass. The Spartans have three different players who have recorded a double-double this season, including a pair of triple doubles by Valentine. And while Valentine has looked strong since his return, Schilling is averaging 8.3 points (shooting 73.7 percent) and 4.3 rebounds since returning to the starting lineup four games ago.
It’s becoming evident that a consistent post presence is not a strength of Wisconsin, which means Michigan State will have every opportunity to carve the Badgers up inside. UW drops below .500 after a 10-point loss to the Spartans.
Worgull's Record: 13-5
Points off Prediction: 189 (10.5 per game)