EAST LANSING, Mich. – The marquee may have said it was Michigan State’s senior day, but Sunday was all about the Spartans freshman delivering in the clutch.
Sophomore Matt McQuaid added 15 points for the Spartans (18-11, 10-6 Big Ten), which registered their 10th straight home win over the Badgers.
Nigel Hayes scored 22 but missed eight free throws for Wisconsin (22-7, 11-5), which has lost four of five and has missed two opportunities in the last four days to move into a tie for first place in the Big Ten.
Trailing Purdue (23-6, 12-4) by one game entering the final week of the season, Wisconsin hosts eighth-place Iowa Thursday and third-place Minnesota Sunday. The Boilers hosts 11th-place Indiana Tuesday before traveling to sixth-place Northwestern Sunday
Trailing for the majority of the game, Wisconsin started attacking Michigan State’s freshman in the low post and saw Hayes generate results. Wisconsin’s senior scored 13 points in the second half and hit a layup with 12:26 remaining to cut the deficit to 52-50.
But then Wisconsin went away from the paint, attempting and missing 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, and Michigan State made them pay for it. The Spartans hit a 3-pointer in transition and poured it on during a 15-3 run.
Wisconsin made a late push, cutting the lead to 72-66 with 4:05 remaining, but Hayes missed a pair of free throws at 2:31 and then fouled Bridges on the next possession. Bridges hit two free throws to boost the lead to eight and a defensive lapse led to Ward delivering a 3-point play on the next possession that was the dagger.
Wisconsin briefly led by six early, a larger lead than it had in any of its three previous trips to the building, but the Spartans got red hot.
Going on a 25-9 run by attacking the paint and finding open spots on the floor, Ward boosted the Spartans by scoring 13 points and hauling in seven rebounds in only nine minutes on the floor.
Michigan State had a 24-18 edge in points in the paint and 21-18 on the glass, but the Badgers started clawed back in the game once they started attacking the post. With Ward on the bench with two fouls for the final 7:10, UW closed on a 16-6 run, including a 9-0 run in the final 2:44 that started with six straight point in the paint.
After being down as many as 13, Wisconsin went into halftime trailing by just one but never got over the hump.
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