Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 2, 2018
NEW YORK — Michigan State arrived in New York as the No. 1 seed. And the Spartans delivered on their promise by beating No. 9 Wisconsin in their opening game of the Big Ten tourney Friday afternoon.
It wasn't a thing of beauty, as the Spartans had to fight to the last seconds to hang on for the win, the team's 13th in a row. The Badgers gave it a valiant effort before succumbing. Wisconsin will miss the NCAA tourney for the first time since 1998, ending a 19-year run.
Best player: Wisconsin's Ethan Happ had a game-high 22 points and was spectacular. But let's go with MSU's Miles Bridges. He led the Spartans with 20 points, hitting 7-of-15 shots with nine rebounds.
Best stat: 41, rebounds for Michigan State, compared to 27 for Wisconsin. MSU also had 16 offensive rebounds
Best shot: Early in the game, Michigan State's Cassius Winston went end to end and made a sweet up-and-under move to score and give his team a 12-10 edge. It was a thing of beauty.
Best dunk: This one is gonna be difficult to top, as Wisconsin's Brad Davison lobbed a perfect pass to Khalil Iverson, who caught the ball in midair with his back to the basket and slammed it home. Unbelievable.
It was over when: Not until the final seconds could Michigan State exhale. The Spartans led, 63-60, with Miles Bridges at the free throw line with a chance to ice the game with 27 seconds left. But Bridges missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving Wisconsin a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer. After a timeout, the Badgers were unable to get a good look at the hoop, as Brad Davison's deep and contested 3-pointer didn't draw iron. Game over. Spartans win despite committing 11 turnovers and being outscored 36-26 in the paint.
Did you see that? Who is that in the crowd? Former big-league pitching ace John Smoltz, a native of Michigan. Former Michigan State players Branden Dawson and Alvin Ellis III were sitting courtside, too.
- Michigan State hit 10-of-11 free throws; Wisconsin was just 2-of-6.
- The Spartans will play the winner of No. 4 Nebraska and No. 5 Michigan for a shot to play in the semifinals.
- MSU hasn't lost since falling at home to Michigan, 82-72, on Jan. 13.