No. 6 Michigan State, No. 19 Wisconsin meet again in Big Ten tourney
The last time the Big Ten tournament was played in Chicago, it was Wisconsin that beat Michigan State in overtime to win the 2015 championship game.
And while it won't be for the title, it seems fitting top-seeded Michigan State will take on fourth-seeded Wisconsin in the first of two semifinals on Saturday for the right to reach the conference championship game.
The Badgers have played in the tournament championship game seven times, winning the title three times. The Spartans have gotten that far six times and have a Big Ten-best five championships. They're each in this position after Michigan State knocked off Ohio State on Friday while Wisconsin outlasted a tough effort from Nebraska.
"We made it more difficult on ourselves at times than we needed to," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said, "but proud of our guys how we were able to rally at the end, make some shots, get some stops. ... The nice thing about this is you get a chance to survive, advance and move on to the next, and quickly learn from this, put it behind us and get ready for Michigan State."
Michigan State (26-6) will be looking to complete the season sweep of the Badgers after earning an eight-point win at Wisconsin in mid-February. In that game, Cassius Winston scored 23 while Nick Ward and Kenny Goins scored 12 apiece. Wisconsin's Ethan Happ missed six free throws in the final minutes and Goins' 3-pointer inside of two minutes clinched the Spartans' victory.
"Yeah, that one went down to the wire," Gard said. "Goins hit the big 3 with about 30 seconds to go to take it from a three-point game to a six-point game. There's a lot of things -- I'll go through the tape again tonight and catch up on that and look."
Michigan State and Wisconsin have faced each other nine times in the Big Ten tournament, with the Spartans winning five. Both will be looking for more in the second game of the weekend as Michigan State started slowly and needed 14 points from backup point guard Foster Loyer to keep it close in the first half before pulling away late.
"Our three main guys, Kenny and Cassius and X(avier Tillman) really struggled early," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "But we found a way, and the name of this game is to find a way."
The Badgers (23-9) were far from crisp in their game, with Happ scoring only four points and turning the ball over seven times, contributing to Wisconsin's 17 turnovers.
"Right now, you know I'm just thinking we need to play better," Wisconsin guard Brad Davison said. "We don't want to play the way we did today 1/8on Saturday 3/8. You know we have Michigan State, a fun opponent, a challenging opponent. It is also a huge opportunity to bounce back with."
--Field Level MediaHome