It was a throwback type of battle between Michigan State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals on Friday night. Both teams struggled to score early on, and things got physical down the stretch. But in the end, it was MSU coming away with the 69-63 win to advance to the semifinals on Saturday.
The Spartans led the entire first half, as Wisconsin got off to a horrid shooting start, thanks in no small part to some excellent defense from MSU. Big Ten Player of the Year Johnny Davis was held without a point until the 2:27 mark of the first half and didn’t have a field goal until there was about a minute to go before halftime.
Davis finished the game with only 11 points on 3-of-19 shooting and 0-for-5 from three-point distance.
Michigan State didn’t shoot much better and took just a two-point lead into the locker room despite the great defensive effort.
The second half featured much more consistent offensive play for both clubs, although one could hardly call it an offensive clinic.
Wisconsin took its first lead at 32-30 on a Davis and-one play, but A.J. Hoggard answered immediately with a layup of his own and it was back-and-forth from there for most of the rest of the second half.
MSU finally got its first three-pointer when Joey Hauser connected with just over seven minutes to go in the game to put the Spartans up by six. Hauser would make another shot following a Wisconsin turnover to extend the Spartans’ lead to eight points.
However, the Badgers would not go away, with Chucky Hepburn knocking down a pair of threes to bring them back into the game, including one to tie the game with just under two minutes to play.
Then it was Tyson Walker time. Despite being quiet for most of the night, Walker came up clutch once again with consecutive baskets to put Michigan State up four with less than a minute to go.
Despite some struggles at the foul line, the Spartans were able to knock down enough at the charity stripe down the stretch to seal the win and advance to face the winner of Friday night’s Purdue-Penn State game.
Marcus Bingham Jr. played one of his best halves of basketball in his Spartan career in the second half, scoring 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting and had seven rebounds and two blocks. He finished the game with a team-high (and career-high-tying) 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Tyson Walker finished with 11 points, most of which came in the final two minutes, and was the only other MSU player in double-digits.
For Wisconsin, Brad Davison finished with a game-high 23 points, but fouled out late, much to the glee of Big Ten fans everywhere. After 15 years we have likely seen the last of him taking on the Spartans.
The win might have improved MSU’s seeding for the NCAA Tournament, and another one certainly will. For now, Spartans fans can just enjoy the win get to spend another day watching Spartan basketball, because this time of year, you never know how many more of these there are left.