NEW YORK CITY — For the second time in less than a week, Wisconsin gave No. 2 Michigan State all it could handle but came up short, this time in a 63-60 loss in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday at Madison Square Garden.
Player of the Game: Miles Bridges
The future NBA lottery pick was great for the Spartans, scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Wisconsin’s Khalil Iverson and Aleem Ford each took turns on the sophomore and made him work for everything he got. But his offensive game is tough to deal with, and he proved difficult to slow down as he got into the paint and hit from deep against the Badgers.
The good: Ethan Happ
The junior admitted on Thursday after Wisconsin beat Maryland that he needed to be better against Michigan State than he was last Sunday in a 68-63 loss to the Spartans. He knew it wouldn’t be easy against a deep and talented front court like Michigan State’s, but he certainly delivered for much of the game. Happ put up a game-high 22 points despite being saddled with foul trouble that limited him to just 26 minutes. He added four assists, four rebounds, two blocks and just one turnover for the Badgers, who were double-digit underdogs coming in.
The not so good: Defensive rebounding
At halftime, Michigan State had just three offensive rebounds. By the time the game was over, the Spartans had 16. It was a huge difference in the game, as they turned those second-chance opportunities into 10 points. And even more than that, forced a tired team into spending even more time playing defense.
Stat of the game: 2 of 6
That was Wisconsin’s free throw shooting on Friday, a day after it went 20 of 24 from the line. Most of the misses came at key moments late in the game. Iverson had a chance for a 3-point play to cut the lead to one with 2:54 left, but missed the free throw. With another opportunity 9 seconds later, he missed the front end of a one-and-one. The deficit was still just two with 1:52 left, when Happ stepped to the line and missed the front of his own one-and-one. Wisconsin had its chances to put further pressure on Michigan State and couldn’t do it.
What they said:
“We know how good we are. We know we belong there. That’s what makes it sting more, because if you’re losing all your games and getting blown out you can kind of get the idea you don’t belong there. But we know we belong there. And Michigan State does, too. And everyone else in the league does. We just didn’t turn it around quick enough.”
— Davison on the team’s late-season surge.
Must-listen audio: Brad Davison postgame
In Case You Missed It:
- Happ said after the game he would declare for the 2018 NBA Draft but won’t hire an agent. It will allow him to attend the NBA combine, if invited, and get a better sense of how personnel executives view him. Happ told reporters he will likely return for his senior year if he’s not a first-round pick.
The center also said there was no truth to a midseason rumor that said he was considering graduating in May and transferring to another school for his final season. He made it clear that the only two options in his mind are turning pro or returning to Wisconsin.
- Davison has been playing with a shoulder injury since late November, one that causes it to pop out of place. He told the Big Ten Network it had been displaced a total of eight times between games and practices. He’ll undergo surgery soon after he gets back to Madison that will likely keep him out of action for much of the offseason, though he does expect to be ready for the 2018-19 season.
- Sophomore D’Mitrik Trice, who missed the final 23 games of the season, said he’s feeling close to 100 percent following foot surgery in December. The point guard said he enjoyed watching the team grow the last few months, but can’t wait to be back out on the floor. He believes they can be among the best teams in the Big Ten, and in turn, the country next season. Trice is expected to get a medical hardship waiver for this season, meaning he’ll have three years of eligibility left.
- With the loss, Wisconsin finishes under .500 (15-18) for the first time since 1998, which is also the last year the Badgers failed to make the NCAA Tournament.