NEW YORK — March Rule No. 168: When Michigan State gets second chances, you don’t.
With 40 seconds left in their Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal Friday, the Spartans had collected 12 offensive boards.
In a half.
To put that figure in perspective, during the last meeting between Wisconsin and Michigan State in Madison — a 68-63 Spartans escape — Gang Green collected 13 offensive boards. In the game.
Sparty 63, Badgers 60. When it’s win-or-go-home, size matters.
The length of all Spartans is impressive. #ThatsWhatSheSaid
— Mike Huntoon (@MikeHuntoon) March 2, 2018
The Badgers (15-18) were outboarded by 14 at Madison Square Garden, 41-27. When you’re a 9 seed trying to knock off a top-3 team loaded with NBA talent, it’s a lot.
When you’re a 9 seed that plays with that small of a margin for error, when you go to the charity stripe just 6 times and convert on only 2 of them … it’s fatal.
Wisconsin’s remarkable postseason streak — 19 straight NCAA Tournament appearances — is officially toast. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the kids figured it out.
They just figured it out too dang late.
Freshman point guard Brad Davison, the gamer’s gamer (10 points, 5 assists) will be back.
Junior forward Ethan Happ, the post man’s post man (22 points, 4 boards) might be. Between Happ and the Spartans combo of Miles Bridges (20 points) and Jaron Jackson Jr. (7 points, 2 blocks), the half dozen NBA scouts on the floor were taking copious notes. Mental or otherwise.
“I would say [scouts say] probably [I’m] a second-round pick,” Happ said after the game. “That’s not where I want to be. So if the combine doesn’t change that, then I’d probably say, then, I would come back.”
Based on the tears in Davison’s eyes in the locker room, it could be an interesting, transitional spring. And looking back is only going to make it hurt more.
Because it was the Spartans who looked their age early. Sloppy passes, lapses of concentration, first-tourney-game cobwebs that took some minutes to fully shake led to five first-half turnovers, of which the Badgers converted into 6 points.
And, on occasion, spectacularly. With 11:35 left in the first half, Badgers wing man Khalil Iverson took an alley from Davison and channeled his inner Dominique Wilkins on the oop, a reverse slam that got everybody stomping:
KHALIL IVERSON WITH THE REVERSE ALLEY-OOP JAM!!
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) March 2, 2018
Nick Ward vs. Happ was the marquee matchup in the paint, two sumos bumping hips and hands. The latter was whistled for his second foul with 7:46 in the first half, putting the load on the shoulders of young posts Nate Reuvers and Charles Thomas.
With Happ on the bench, the Spartans outscored the Badgers 16-8 the rest of the period, including an 8-0 run to end the half. That stretch was compounded when Davison, a perfect foil for Spartans point man Cassius Winston, got slapped with his second foul — both came while he was trying to draw a charge — with 3:45 left in the period.
And the more extra chances a Tom Izzo squad gets on offense, the more precise you’re forced to be on your end of the floor.
Earlier this week, the Badgers outscored the Spartans on second-chance points, 17-15. This time around? Michigan State had three offensive boards in the first half and had corralled eight by the midway point of the second period.
In March, on neutral courts, shooting comes and goes. Length doesn’t.