The men’s basketball team accomplished two things on Sunday against the Badgers: they snapped their three-game losing streak at Madison, Wisconsin, and clinched the Big Ten title outright for the first time since 2009.
No. 2 MSU (28-3, 16-2 Big Ten) defeated Wisconsin (14-17, 7-11), 68-63, in the team’s regular season closer at the Kohl Center. The win gives the Spartans sole possession of the conference title for the first time in nine seasons, and perhaps more importantly, gives the team the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament.
The Spartans didn’t turn in one of their more efficient performances on Sunday and that was evident in the small disparity in the final score. The team shot the ball at just a 43 percent clip and had 13 turnovers to the Badgers’ four giveaways.
The first half of the contest was a game of runs by both squads.
A two-handed dunk off an offensive rebound by sophomore forward Miles Bridges on the opening possession, followed by three consecutive paint scores from the heralded freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. and Nick Ward gave the Spartans an 8-0 lead.
The Badgers answered the Spartans’ quick start with a run of their own. Four straight two-point jump shots, including back-to-back jumpers by Wisconsin freshman guard Brad Davison, tied the game at 11 points-a-piece.
After trailing by seven points at the intermission, the Badgers opened the second half on an 8-2 run to tie pull even with the Spartans, 36-36.
Davison, who briefly exited the game after his shoulder popped out of the socket, helped spark Wisconsin’s second-half surge.
Davison showed no ill effects from the shoulder injury when he re-entered the contest. The freshman knocked down a step-back jump shot, followed up by consecutive rhythm jump shots from straight-away on back-to-back Wisconsin possessions to help the Badgers once again tie the game at 42 points.
The Badgers momentarily took their first lead of the contest at just under the eight minute mark off a pair off a pair of free throws by freshman forward Nate Reuvers, but the Badgers’ lead only lasted for about 10 seconds as sophomore Cassius Winston responded with a 3-pointer, one of his six triples on the day.
Bridges, who had struggled for much of the contest, got going late, knocking down a pull-up jumper after getting a Wisconsin defender up into the air off an up-fake. On the following Spartan possessions Jackson connected on a shot from long range and Winston nailed a near-30 footer.
Winston’s long 3-pointer gave the Spartans a 58-51 advantage with a little more than four minutes to play, and was ultimately too much for the Badgers to overcome despite Davison’s 30 points.
Sunday was MSU’s first win at Madison since January 2013, and gives the team its best regular season record in school history.
Winston and Ward led the Spartans in scoring with 20 points and 14 points, respectively. Bridges finished with 10 points after scoring one field goal in the first half.
Due to locking up the top seed in the Big Ten tournament, MSU earns a first and second round bye and won't play again until March 2. The game will tipoff at noon.
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