The No. 9 seed Wisconsin Badgers knocked off Maryland in a low-scoring thriller that went down to the wire on Thursday, and looked to replicate that success on Friday against the top-seeded Michigan State Spartans, but just couldn’t quite do enough, as the team fell, 63-60.
The two teams faced off a short five days ago, and the Badgers came in to MSG confident and playing their best ball of the season.
In the first half, the Badgers gave the Spartans just about all they could handle, trailing by just four, 32-28 at the break. The whole half was played within an eight-point swing, and Michigan State had to finish the half on an 8-0 run just to make their lead possible.
Early on, the Spartans got whatever they wanted in the post, primarily thanks to Nick Ward and Miles Bridges on drives to the hoop. Wisconsin answered right back, though, with freshmen Nate Reuvers and Brad Davison, and of course, Ethan Happ.
Happ was the best player on the floor in the first half, finishing with nine points and six rebounds. His first half was cut short, though, after a questionable call on Ward, forcing Happ to sit the last seven-plus minutes, with Wisconsin controlling the pace, and leading 20-16 at that moment.
Khalil Iverson played solid defense, and just about blew the roof off Madison Square Garden after a backwards alley-oop slam from Davison, who had to sit out with foul trouble at the end of the half as well.
Without Happ and Davison, Wisconsin was outscored 10-3, and the free throw disparity for the two teams was nine attempts for the Spartans, compared to just two for the Badgers.
Bridges and Cassius Winston got the scoring going for Michigan State after the break, eventually extending the lead to 38-32. Happ scored the first two buckets for Wisconsin, and freshman Aleem Ford came alive for the Badgers with back to back threes to tie the game at 38 in the world’s most famous arena.
Happ started to take over for Wisconsin, but Bridges did the same for Michigan State. The game was back and forth, but an unlikely hero for Michigan State sealed it for them. Matt McQuaid hit a ridiculous three to put the Spartans up 63-58 with under a minute to go.
Wisconsin got another chance after scoring, but Brad Davison’s last-second three fell short, as did the Badgers’ tournament hopes, ending one of the longest NCAA Tournament streaks in the country.