PREVIEW: Spartans, Badgers rematch in Big Ten Tournament semifinals
Who: No. 4 Wisconsin (22-9, 14-6 Big Ten) vs. No. 1 Michigan State (25-6, 16-4).
When: 1 p.m. EST, Saturday, March 16.
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Radio: 94.9 WMMQ-FM (Lansing)
After MSU coach Tom Izzo earned his 600th win by eliminating eighth-seeded Ohio State in Friday's quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament, the Spartans will be back on the floor 24 hours later to face Wisconsin.
The Spartans mettled their way to a 67-59 win against the Badgers, now ranked 19th in the latest Associated Press Poll, on the road in mid-February thanks to 23 points from point guard Cassius Winston. Khalil Iverson and Nate Reuvers combined for 28 points in U-W's 66-62 win against 13th-seeded Nebraska on Friday. All-Big Ten First Team forward Ethan Happ was held to four points, seven rebounds and seven turnovers in 20 minutes.
Winston, the consensus Big Ten Player of the Year, led all scorers with 18 and a game-high seven rebounds in MSU's 77-70 win against the Buckeyes, despite playing 22 minutes due to a lingering sprain in his big toe (Winston didn't specify on which foot). Foster Loyer absorbed the remaining minutes and finished with a career-high 14 points and 5-of-7 shooting from the floor with four 3-pointers.
The Spartans will also have forward Nick Ward back for the second straight game after being sidelined five games with a hairline fracture in his left hand. Ward had eight points and two boards in 15 minutes in his return.
As the Badgers' leading scorer, Happ came into Friday averaging 17.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and dropped 20 against MSU on Feb. 12. Reuvers and Iverson are Wisconsin's only starters not averaging double figures, posting 7.9 and 6.4 respectively.
Winston came into Friday averaging 19.0 points and MSU's only starter averaging 10-plus. Ward was averaging 15.1, but was used off the bench Friday.
Wisconsin is predicted to be a No. 4 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament by ESPN's Joe Lunardi, but a win over MSU and a chance to play for a Big Ten Tournament championship could bolster the Badger's chance at a higher seed. Lundardi has the Spartans listed as a No. 2 seed.
Casey Harrison: MSU 68, Wisconsin 62
Chase Michaelson: MSU 68, Wisconsin 62