MSU one step from tournament final

Spartans must get past tough Badgers team in semifinals


INDIANAPOLIS - They'll be coming off of less than 17 hours of preparation, but MSU is one step away from reaching the Big Ten Tournament final. 

After walking over Northwestern in a 67-51 victory Friday night, the No. 3-seeded Spartans will be facing No. 2-seeded Wisconsin. It will be a tall task for the green and white, as the Badgers are one of the hottest teams in the nation. 

Wisconsin only has lost once since Groundhog Day -- their last regular season game at Nebraska. It's safe to say that loss was just a hiccup, as the Badgers annihilated Minnesota 83-57 before the Spartans took the court on Friday. 

Head coach Tom Izzo is all too familiar with this match-up and anticipates a game that will go down to the wire. 

"It's an old-fashioned fist fight," Izzo said. "That's what Wisconsin-Michigan State has been like."

The two only have met once this season, but the lone meeting didn't disappoint. After an improbable late comeback staged by MSU, it was Wisconsin's Traevon Jackson that sent in the game-winning shot to give the Badgers a 60-58 victory.

Izzo said that since that game, the Badgers have done a better job shooting the long ball. That statement proves to be true, as the Badgers have shot 38 percent since the Feb. 9 meeting. 

The Spartans also will have stay focused for 40 minutes in order to shut down the Badgers depth. They have four players averaging double-figures, with first-team all-Big Ten member Frank Kaminsky leading with 13.4 points per game.

Senior guard Ben Brust is coming off a phenomenal night, scoring a career-best 29 points against the Gophers. Freshman forward Nigel Hayes, who had some crucial points against the Spartans last month, chipped in with 15 points. 

The team's hottest conference. A team with near-perfect balance. A short window of time to prepare. 

In no way will this be an easy one for MSU, but senior guard Keith Appling doesn't think it will be difficult to ready themselves for Wisconsin.

"It's not that hard," Appling said of the short turnaround. "Every team that we potentially face in this tournament we played before, so it's not that hard to figure out what they're going to do."

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