CHICAGO – Top-seeded Michigan State defeated fourth-seeded Wisconsin 67-55 in the semifinal of the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday. Michigan State jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back, with six points being the closest the game would get for the game. Wisconsin will go into Selection Sunday boasting a 23-10 record overall.
Cassius Winston was named Big Ten Player of the Year just a few days ago, and on Saturday against Wisconsin, Winston was the best player on the floor. Winston had a game-high 21 points and 6 assists as he led his team to the Big Ten Tournament Championship.
Winston controlled the game’s pace the entire game. MSU playing well together as a team and the Badgers going minutes at a time without scoring a single point. A good example of this is the assist stat, which resulted in MSU out-assisting Wisconsin 18 to nine.
Michigan State jumped out on Wisconsin early. The Spartans hit five of their first seven three-point attempts, including three from Kenny Goins, as they built as much as a 17-point lead in the first half.
In addition to three-point shooting, Winston was masterful cutting through Wisconsin’s defense and either scoring or lobbing the ball to teammates. Winston had 11 points and four assists in the first half. Michigan State had nine fastbreak points to Wisconsin’s zero, allowing the Spartans to get some easy opportunities.
The Badgers battled back, mostly because of defense and some solid Kobe King minutes off the bench. King scored nine points in the half. He had three strong, decisive finishes at the rim and knocked down a three. Wisconsin forced nine Michigan State turnovers. King was the catalyst of a 17-7 run that got Wisconsin back within eight at halftime.
In the second half, Wisconsin had multiple scoring droughts of over three minutes. One drought, in the final ten minutes of the game, lasted over seven minutes. MSU’s defense was stout, but there were definitely buckets to be had that Wisconsin could not convert.
Michigan State’s offense was not scorching the second half like it was the first, especially from beyond the arch, but Winston and Xavier Tillman scored at the cup to keep Wisconsin a comfortable distance away.
The stat lines for Wisconsin were ugly. Reuvers had arguably the toughest day with zero points, he missed all seven of his field goal attempts, and a plus-minus of -21 in 20 minutes. Trice and Davison were a combined five-of-19. Ethan Happ led the team in scoring with 20 points, but he did it on 20 shots. The Badgers shot only 2/18 from the three-point line.
Tillman added 17 for the Spartans, Goins chipped in 13. MSU plays the winner of Minnesota/Michigan.
This type of game has happened many times with this Wisconsin team. They can go forever without scoring points. The issue on Saturday was that it was against way too good of a team to play like that and expect to win, no matter how good your defense is.