FINAL: MSU upsets No. 16 Wisconsin on senior day, 84-74
It was a showcase of underclassmen talent at the Breslin Center Sunday, as the Spartans hosted the University of Wisconsin for senior day. MSU upset the No. 16 Badgers by a final score of 84-74.
With the win, MSU improves to 18-11 overall and 10-6 for a three-way tie for third place in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the Badgers fall to 22-7 on the season and remain in second place in the conference at 11-5.
Four Spartans scored in double-figures and freshman forward Nick Ward led the way with a game-high 22 points. As a team, MSU shot 46.7 percent from the field and a season-best 91.3 percent from the free throw line. Wisconsin shot 43.1 percent from the field and missed 12 free throw attempts.
After winning the tipoff, Wisconsin started the game one an 8-2 run. Zak Showalter scored on back-to-back 3-point attempts in the first 1:31 of play — one the result of a turnover by freshman guard Joshua Langford.
With 14:38 left in the half, MSU initiated an 11-3 run to take its first lead of the afternoon. Freshmen forwards Nick Ward and Miles Bridges combined for eight points in the stretch, all from inside the post with the exception of a 3-pointer from Bridges and a free throw from Ward to take a 19-15 lead.
The Spartans used another 11-2 run later in the first half to take a 10-point lead on Wisconsin, 31-21. Sophomore guard Matt McQuaid hit a jumper from the left post and a layup to draw to and-1's as the leading scorer in that run.
Wisconsin was able to cut MSU's lead down to one point at halftime, 38-37. The Badgers ended the half on a 9-0 run while the Spartans went scoreless in the last 3:34 and shot 1-for-7 in their last shots from the field.
Ward and McQuaid combined for 24 points in the first half, while Showalter led the way for the Badgers on 4-of-4 shooting with three 3-pointers. Wisconsin as a team shot 42.9 percent from the free-throw line in the first half, below its season average of 66.5 percent while MSU shot above its average, at 75 percent for the half.
Three early fouls to start the half from Wisconsin aided MSU to a 44-39 lead to start the second half. Bridges and Langford each hit threes on back-to-back possessions to give the Spartans a 50-43 lead with 15:41 to play, but a pair of free throws from Nigel Hayes and a layup from Showalter once again cut MSU's lead to four.
It took the Spartans over three minutes to score their next field goal before sophomore forward Kyle Ahrens hit a 3-point basket from the top of the key. On MSU's next possession redshirt-sophomore forward Kenny Goins found a dribble pass from freshman guard Cassius Winston for a dunk and a 59-50 lead with 10:29 to play.
MSU went back-and-forth with Wisconsin but held the lead where it was before Winston hit a 3-pointer from the right wing. With 5:41 left to play, Ward hit a pair of free throws after a touch foul to extend MSU's lead back to 13 points.
Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard on his team's performance pic.twitter.com/27NydG0Kd2— Casey Harrison (@CHarrisonTSN) February 27, 2017
With 5:25 left to play the Badgers went on a 7-0 run spanning over 2:13, to cut MSU's lead, 72-66. In that span, MSU had missed its last five straight field goal attempts. Bridges, Langford and Ellis were all on the bench with 3:11 to play because of foul trouble — each with four fouls.
As the time winded down and just 1:18 to play, a jumper from Bronson Koenig cut MSU's lead back to six, 77-71. MSU finished the game 1-for-8 on their last shots from the field, but four-straight free throws kept MSU in front.
MSU would be the last to score, with 23 seconds remaining Ellis hit a pair of free throws. Wisconsin missed its last five shots from the field, as MSU completed the upset.
When MSU's three seniors — Ellis, fifth-year guard Eron Harris and fifth-year forward Matt Van Dyk — kissed the Spartan logo at midcourt, an MSU basketball tradition, the final score was already set. With the Breslin rooting for all three, the Izzone rang our chants for Harris, who suffered a season and career-ending injury against Purdue on Feb. 18.
Eron Harris's reaction to his mom singing the national anthem pic.twitter.com/zbAeyuIs7O— Casey Harrison (@CHarrisonTSN) February 27, 2017
MSU shot a season-best 91.3 percent from the free-throw line, while it shot 46.7 percent from the field. Wisconsin shot 52 percent from the free-throw line and 43 percent from the field.
MSU will finish the regular season with two games on the road — Illinois (16-12, 6-9 Big Ten) on Wednesday and Maryland (22-7, 10-6 Big Ten) on Saturday. The Spartans will tipoff against the Fighting Illini at 9 p.m.