Spartans beat Badgers, advance to Big Ten tourney final

MSU will battle with Michigan for title tomorrow afternoon


INDIANAPOLIS - The No. 22 MSU men’s basketball team looked like a team of old as they beat Wisconsin 83-75 in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal Saturday afternoon.

Adreian Payne led the charge with 18 points, and three other Spartans scored in double figures.

“The team we beat is a hell of a team,” head coach Tom Izzo said. “We got off to such a good start. We played some of our best basketball of the year in the first five minutes.”

MSU picked up where they left off last night against Northwestern, and got out to a quick 7-0 lead. Adreian Payne scored the first five points for the Spartans.

After a highlight behind-the-back pass that led to a Matt Costello dunk Friday night, Valentine continued to drop dimes when he found a trailing Branden Dawson with a between-the-legs dish early on.

The Spartans played tough on the defensive end, allowing the Badgers to score just four field goals in the first ten minutes.

“In practice, coach talks about our defense,” Dawson said. “We have to get better defensively and communicating. That’s important for us.”

MSU went on a 10-0 run to push their lead to 16, but the Badgers scored seven straight to get back in the hunt.

The Spartans held a solid 43-26 lead at the half, and held Wisconsin to 28 percent shooting.

“I told my players, ‘There’s no way they’re not coming back,’” Izzo said. “The second half, we didn’t have the same energy level. That’s still something this team has to realize, is when you’re playing in these tournaments, you can’t have a bad half.”

Wisconsin mounted a comeback as the second half got underway, going on an 11-3 run to cut the lead to 10 points.

Every time, Wisconsin would go in a run and threaten MSU’s lead, the Spartans would have an answer, something they haven’t been able to do consistently for the last two months.

Fouls were a problem the Spartans down the stretch.Gavin Schilling sat for much of the period with four, Payne picked up his fourth with a more than six minutes to go and Gary Harris and Matt Costello played with three for the majority of the half.

Overall, MSU racked up 22 fouls over the course of the game, compared to 17 for the Badgers, but the gap was as wide as 22-9 at one point. As a result, Wisconsin made 24-of-31 shots from the charity stripe.

After his 3-of-20 shooting performance earlier for the season in Madison, Gary Harris turned things around and scored 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting.

MSU will get a chance at revenge against rival Michigan 3:30 p.m. tomorrow at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with a Big Ten Tournament title on the line.

Before the tournament started, Appling said he and the Spartans wanted a chance to play some teams that got the better of them in the regular season, and this tournament has set up perfectly for that.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “We kind of feel like we’re getting a second chance because we missed out on the Big Ten regular season championship. We’ve got to take it to what it is and get back to the drawing board.”

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