But the University of Wisconsin's defensive captain landed the final blow – on the other side of the floor – and nailed the winning layup with 27 seconds to go to give Wisconsin a comeback 65-63 victory over Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals at Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Badgers (28-4) stole a berth in the tournament finals Sunday against the winner of Minnesota-Illinois, overcoming a 12-point deficit in the final eight minutes.
Neitzel carried the Spartans (25-8) with 26 points, but had just three points in the final 9:55 as UW slowly chipped away at MSU's commanding lead.
With the game tied at 63-all, Flowers drove to the rim with one minute remaining and lost the handle.
But he quickly made up for it. He stole a pass intended for Neitzel, drove the floor with the Spartan guard breathing down his neck, and juked past him for a skying layup to give the Badgers a 65-63 lead – their largest of the game.
Neitzel had a chance to win the game with a three-point look at the buzzer, but with Flowers closely guarding him he missed wide right and the buzzer sounded before anybody could get the rebound.
Flowers couldn't stop Neitzel early, getting burned on a couple of moves by the quick MSU shooter. The Madison senior then tried to add physical pressure, but picked up a couple of quick fouls and sat for the last eight minutes of the first half, watching Neitzel pick up steam.
Neitzel cooled off a little bit after halftime, hitting three of eight shots but going 1-for-5 from behind the three-point arc.
Free-throw shooting hurt the Badgers early, but saved them late. UW made just six of its first 10 attempts, and shot just 70 percent for the game (26-for-37), but was 9-of-10 from the line during a 20-8 run in five and a half minutes that tied the game at 61-all with 2:25 remaining.
Most of those foul shots came courtesy of Michigan State players fouling out. Four different Spartans – three centers and MSU leading scorer, forward Raymar Morgan – fouled out in a span of 3:04, and the first three came within 56 seconds. Idong Ibok led the exodus to the bench, followed by Drew Naymick, Goran Suton, and then Morgan.
After Flowers' layup, MSU guard Kalin Lucas drove and missed an off-balance layup with ten seconds to go. UW center Brian Butch grabbed the rebound and passed off to UW guard Jason Bohannon, who was immediately fouled.
Bohannon was the right man to have on the line – his school-record streak of 39 consecutive free throws made was ended yesterday – but the sophomore missed them both. But the Spartans still had to hustle, and Neitzel couldn't come up with the winner at the end.
There was a scary moment for the Badgers when point guard Trevon Hughes hit the deck holding his left ankle in severe pain with 12:38 left in the game. He was on the court for a few minutes, and was helped to the locker room with assistance from UW trainers.
While Hughes did not return, he was back on the bench for the game's last eight minutes and was in good spirits with the other Badger reserves. UW coach Bo Ryan said after the game he didn't know about Hughes' status for Sunday's championship game, but Hughes was fine "emotionally".
The Badgers never trailed during their win over Michigan on Friday, but the inverse was true for most of Saturday's affair against the Spartans. Other than the 27 seconds after Flowers' shot, the Badgers only led for one minute late in the first half, when two Hughes free throws gave UW a 23-22 advantage.
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