NEW YORK — Wisconsin’s season ended Friday at Madison Square Garden in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, as No. 1 seed Michigan State (29-3) topped the No. 9-seeded Badgers (15-17) 63-60 in a hard-fought contest.
Neither team led by more than seven points the entire game. It was the Spartans’ second win over Wisconsin in six days. Michigan State prevailed 68-63 on Sunday in Madison, Wis.
WHY: The Badgers’ free-throw shooting went awry inside the 5-minute mark. Matt McQuaid nailed a triple to give the Spartans a 63-58 lead with 1:29 to play, providing enough breathing room for Michigan State.
Wisconsin’s attempt to tie the game in the final seconds on a long 3-pointer by Brad Davison was off the mark. The Spartans played strong defense in the final sequence, denying Davison a good look.
Wisconsin went on a 10-0 run early in the second half, which Michigan State countered with a 7-0 run to regain the lead. Michigan State extended its lead to seven points with about five minutes to play, but Ethan Happ and the Badgers refused to die. Happ’s and-1 with 3:41 left made it a one-point game.
Foul trouble hampered the Badgers in the first half. Happ, Davison and Nate Reuvers all picked up two fouls and the refs hit Wisconsin with 10 team fouls in the game’s first 20 minutes.
After Badgers coach Greg Gard pulled Happ with 7:46 left in the half, Michigan State outscored Wisconsin 16-8 to take a 32-28 lead into halftime. The Spartans made all nine of their free-throw attempts in the half.
WHAT IT MEANS: Wisconsin’s worst season in 20 years has come to a close. After starting the season 5-8 and losing guards Kobe King and D’Mitrik Trice to season-ending injuries, Wisconsin struggled in Big Ten play. The Badgers’ ninth-place finish was the first time they have finished outside of the top four in the conference since 2001.
This season also marks the first time the Badgers have missed the NCAA Tournament in 19 years.
Gard will have to get his team healthy and focused for next season, when Wisconsin returns all major contributors. If Happ returns for his senior season, and the Badgers get consistent guard play, Wisconsin should return to the NCAA Tournament.
All signs point to Happ coming back for one last ride, but he’s yet to announce his next step.
WHO STARRED: Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston starred for the Spartans. The Badgers held Bridges to just 10 points during the teams’ recent meeting in Madison, but he had 11 points by halftime, as did Winston. Bridges finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds, while Winston had 17 (1 for 7 from 3-point range).
Happ finished 10 of 16 from the field and with a team-high 22 points. Aleem Ford went 3 for 3 from 3-point range, hitting some big triples to help keep Wisconsin in the game.
WHO STUMBLED: Brevin Pritzl played solid defense, but he hesitated on offense and misfired on a couple open layups. He finished 1 of 7 from the field and 1 for 3 from beyond the arc.
Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson found himself in foul trouble, which limited his playing time. He ended up with 7 points and fouled out with 1:51 to play.
WHO IS NEXT: Michigan State will play the winner of Nebraska-Michigan in the first semifinal game Saturday. Game time is set for 2 p.m. ET (CBS).
WHO WAS THERE: Former Atlanta Braves pitcher and current FOX MLB analyst John Smoltz took in the game. Wisconsin superfan Andy North was spotted in the crowd. Barry Alvarez, the school’s athletic director, was there. CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz and sports-talk host Doug Gottlieb were seen as well.
Michigan State 63, Wisconsin 60. Final stats pic.twitter.com/NGOCGkk0tS
— Chris Bumbaca (@BOOMbaca) March 2, 2018