INDIANAPOLIS - Wisconsin proved it was past its midseason lull when it handed Michigan State a heartbreaking two-point setback Feb. 9.
The Spartans hope a win over the Badgers in the Big Ten tournament semifinals in Indianapolis will do the same for them when they meet Saturday. Michigan State closed the season with losses in seven of its final 12 games, but enjoyed its largest margin of victory since mid-January in Friday's 67-51 quarterfinal victory over Northwestern.
The second-seeded Spartans will try to win consecutive games for the first time in nearly two months against No. 3 seed Wisconsin, which prevented what could have been a three-game winning streak when Traevon Jackson hit a tiebreaking jumper with 2.1 seconds left to send Michigan State to a 60-58 defeat. The Badgers' victory that day was their second during an eight-game winning streak that followed a stretch in which they dropped five of the previous six. The winner of this contest will face Michigan or Ohio State in Sunday's championship game.
TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (24-8): Branden Dawson told Michigan Live that assistant coach Mike Garland texted him before Friday's game and simply said, ‘We need more.' and he responded with an 8-of-12 effort from the field, 16 points and nine rebounds in his best performance in four games since the previous nine with a hand injury.
"I told him God might have taken his hand away, but gave him a jump shot. But don't kid yourself, he was a big key," coach Tom Izzo said after the game.
Michigan State improved to 10-0 when the Indiana native scores in double figures.
ABOUT WISCONSIN (26-6): The Badgers turned in one of their most complete efforts of the season in Friday's 83-57 rout, shooting 64 percent in the second half en route to posting their highest point total since a 95-point outburst against Illinois on Jan. 8. Wisconsin also held Minnesota to its worst field-goal percentage effort of the season (32.8).
"This is the first time I think that we really finished off a team, shut the door on them. That was a good feeling and that's what we've got to do to keep winning," Jackson said following Friday's win.
1. Wisconsin's 26-point victory over Minnesota was its largest ever in the Big Ten tournament while Michigan State's 16-point win over Northwestern was its fifth-largest at the event.
2. Spartans C Adreian Payne blocked two shots Friday to give 135 for his career, allowing him to pass Drew Naymick and become the school's all-time leader.
3. A pair of freshmen reserves – Bronson Koenig (career-high 14 points) and Nigel Hayes (15) – combined to shoot 11-of-14 from the field Friday and outscored the Gophers' bench by themselves.
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