The signs of maturity and progression with the Wisconsin Badgers were evident the last portion of the season, and on Friday, UW played Michigan State—a potential Final Four team—to the last possession.
Unfortunately, that was not enough, as Wisconsin fell 63–60 to Michigan State, the No. 1 overall seed, in the Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ scored a game-high 22 points (10-of-15 shooting) with four rebounds and four assists, while both Khalil Iverson and Brad Davison tallied 10 points in the loss for Wisconsin (15–18).
Iverson also contributed five rebounds, with Davison dishing out five assists while only committing one turnover.
Forward Miles Bridges scored a team-high 20 points with nine rebounds in the win for Michigan State (29–3), with guard Cassius Winston complementing the big man with 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists.
Wisconsin did almost everything it could to upset Michigan State. UW actually shot better (45.6 percent to MSU’s 42.9 percent) while also committing fewer turnovers (six to MSU’s 11).
The Spartans, however, out-rebounded the Badgers 41–27 (including 16 offensive rebounds) while also connecting on 10 of 11 free throws. Wisconsin was only 2-of-6 from the charity stripe.
This was definitely a highlight for Wisconsin, though:
Wisconsin’s foul trouble in the first 20 minutes allowed Michigan State to push out a 32–28 advantage at halftime. Happ scored nine points in the first half but picked up his second foul with 7:46 remaining and sat until intermission. After a Nate Reuvers dunk to give UW a 25–22 advantage, Davison picked up his second foul with 3:45 and like, Happ, was subbed out until the second half.
The Badgers would only score three points the rest of the half on a Brevin Pritzl three at the 3:35 mark, and a Winston three-pointer right before the buzzer gave the Spartans a four-point lead.
Give Wisconsin credit, as Greg Gard’s squad continued to fight on and actually tie the game before regaining a four-point lead at 42–38 with 14:21 remaining on an Iverson tip-in, part of a 14–6 run. Redshirt freshman forward Aleem Ford connected on two of his three three-pointers in that span, one in which UW scored 10 consecutive points.
Michigan State regained the lead with a 7–0 run of its own in just over 90 seconds, with Bridges contributing five points to make it 45–42 with 11:48 remaining.
Wisconsin kept battling back to make it a one-possession game, with Ford’s third triple of the afternoon tying it at 49–49 and a Happ layup making it 51–51 with under nine minutes remaining.
In the second half, Wisconsin shot 50 percent from the field (14-of-28), with Michigan State only hitting 42.4 percent (14-of-33) in those final 20 minutes.
The Spartans went on another 7–0 run to retake the lead with five minutes remaining after a Matt McQuaid layup, but the Badgers countered with a 5–0 run to bring it within a 58–56 ballgame after Happ connected on a three-point play (layup plus the free throw).
With under three minutes left in the game, Iverson was fouled by Joshua Langford, but did not hit the front end of a one-and-one to cut the lead to one or potentially tie the game at 60–60.
Happ had a chance with a 1:52 remaining to do the same after a Jaren Jackson, Jr., foul, but like Iverson, missed the first three throw in a one-and-one situation. On the ensuing possession, McQuaid drilled a three to give the Spartans a 63–58 lead with just under 90 seconds to play.
Davison drove to the lane and brought the game back to within three at 63–60 with a layup with 32 seconds left. Pritzl fouled Bridges, who then missed a free throw and gave the Badgers an opportunity to tie the game on the game’s last possession.
After a timeout, however, Wisconsin could not get a clean look, and Davison chucked up an errant three-point attempt from the top of the key that ended the Badgers’ season.
Wisconsin only connected on six of 17 three-point opportunities against Michigan State.