Wisconsin Badgers get their wish in matchup with Michigan State Spartans
NEW YORK – Since a home loss to No. 2 Michigan State to end the regular season on Sunday, the members of the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team have made it clear that they wanted another shot at the Spartans.
The Badgers will get it Friday in a Big Ten Conference tournament quarterfinal at Madison Square Garden.
“We wouldn’t want it any other way,” UW redshirt freshman forward Aleem Ford said Thursday after the Badgers advanced with a 59-54 win over Maryland. “Just to be able to get another shot at them is the perfect way for us to continue rolling.”
The scouting report on the Spartans should be fresh on the Badgers’ mind considering it will be the second meeting between the teams in a span of six days. Michigan State won 68-63 at the Kohl Center despite a career-high 30 points from UW freshman guard Brad Davison.
Among the things the Badgers need to do better this time around is keep Michigan State off the offensive glass and contain sophomore point guard Cassius Winston, who went 6 of 6 from 3-point range and finished with a team-high 20 points on Sunday.
UW likely also needs a big game from junior center Ethan Happ, who was held to 13 points after going 6 of 17 from the field and 1 of 5 from the free throw line against the Spartans. Michigan State rotated players on Happ, using Nick Ward, Xavier Tillman and Jaren Jackson Jr. to make life difficult on the UW star in the paint.
“Personally, I think I have to be more effective in there against those big guys,” Happ said. “It’s tough, you’ve got the length of Ward and the size of Ward and you’ve got Jackson coming over to double or help. It’s not easy, but that’s something that has to happen for us to get the win.”
Michigan State also beat UW 76-61 in East Lansing on Jan. 26. The Badgers were within 46-40 with about 10 minutes to go in the game and a had a chance to pull closer, but Michigan State held on to win.
The Spartans will carry a 12-game winning streak into the game on Friday.
“We’ve got five guys, they have five guys,” UW junior swingman Khalil Iverson said, “and we’re not going to back down just because of what everyone says on the outside.”
Happ’s struggles from the free throw line have been well documented, but he was 6 of 7 against the Terrapins. The Badgers went 20 of 24 as a team.
“I just tell myself to relax,” Happ said. “I expect them to go in, just with how much preparation and how much time I put into it. It feels good when they do go in.”