It was the season that Wisconsin fans feared would come one day—but after years of consistency, we never actually expected to happen.
Although any team can make the NCAA tournament if they run the table in their conference tournament and claim an automatic bid, it appears that the Badgers will miss the spectacle of March Madness for the first time since 1998.
As for the Spartans, this was a good win for a program that could face severe consequences with the unveiling of sexual assault scandal surrounding the university, including alleged stories involving Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo after a recent ESPN report.
The Badgers fell to the Spartans 76-61, and although their effort was valiant, they came up short of the talent on Tom Izzo’s squad, dropping to 10-12 on the season and 3-6 in conference play.
They started the game with a quick Brevin Pritzl three on an assist from Brad Davison—it would be their only lead of the game. Ethan Happ struggled mightily in the first half, heading to the bench early with two quick fouls—he finished the half 0-8 with a single point.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Badgers were respectable, but runs of 7-0 and 9-0 by the Spartans saw Wisconsin in a 21-37 hole at the end of the half.
Whatever Greg Gard said in the halftime speech worked wonders, as the Badgers started the half on a 15-6 run. Happ scored five quick points, Wisconsin had its defense together, and had cut the lead to six with just under 10 minutes remaining.
But that was the closest they would get.
Poor shooting returned to the Badgers, as they went ice cold from the field for the next three minutes as Michigan State went on a 7-0 run and never looked back. Four Spartans finished in double digits—Nick Ward, Jaren Jackson, Cassius Winston, Miles Bridges—but they will need more production from their bench against stronger opponents, mustering only 4 points tonight.
Happ was the high point scorer for the Badgers, finishing with 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists, but Wisconsin lost this game on the backs of poor shooting—a common trend this season, as they’ve managed only 34.2% from three on the season.
The Badgers shooting percentages tonight: 36.8% from two, 21.7% from three. The Spartans? 50% from two, and 42.1% from three.
But there were bright spots as well—Wisconsin was 14-16 from the foul line, their best percentage on the season. Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers continue to improve, and this team continues to fight—unfortunately, “fight” isn’t enough to win in the Big Ten. Wisconsin is back at home on Monday against Nebraska.