INDIANAPOLIS — Seventh-seeded Michigan State bounced No. 2 Wisconsin from the Big Ten Tournament Friday night with a 69-63 win at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Player of the Game: Marcus Bingham Jr.
As has been the case for much of the year, Wisconsin struggled to contain the opposition’s big man. This time it was Bingham who hurt the Badgers inside. He had 19 points, and after starting 1-for-4, hit his final six shots in the game – all in the second half. The 7-footer had a personal 7-0 run that saw Michigan State go from down two to up seven with 7:57 left in the game.
“He was getting to his spots,” forward Tyler Wahl said. “He’s a heck of a player. He can get to his spots, dominant and long. He was killing us.”
Wisconsin centers Steven Crowl and Chris Vogt were in foul trouble, which forced coach Greg Gard to play small at times, something Bingham was able to take advantage of. But it wasn’t just Bingham inside. Julius Marble also proved to be difficult to slow, finishing with eight points on 3-for-3 shooting.
The good: Second half 3-point shooting
If post defense is the biggest weakness on that end of the court, 3-point shooting is the biggest weakness on the offensive end. The Badgers finished dead last in the Big Ten in shooting from deep and were bad again to start the game, missing their first seven on Friday night. But Wisconsin warmed up after the break, going 7-for-17 from deep. That included Chucky Hepburn and Brad Davison combining to go 6-for-10. The shooting helped the Badgers scored 41 points in the second half after putting up just 22 in the first.
The not so good: Johnny Davis
Wisconsin needs Johnny Davis to be the special player he has been for much of the season if it wants to go far this postseason and he wasn’t that Friday night. He scored 11 points and was a miserable 3-for-19 from the field, his second-worst shooting effort of the season. In what has been a concern at times this year, Davis forced shots instead of finding open teammates. The shots he did have good looks at, didn’t fall.
“Just missed shots,” Davis said when asked what caused his rough night. “It happens in the game of basketball.”
When Davis did seem to be getting in a better rhythm early in the second half, he got called for a cheap third foul that forced him to go to the bench. He would not make another shot from the field and was limited to just two points at the free throw line.
Davis had 25 points in each of the previous meetings between the schools this year and it seemed clear that Michigan State ramped up the pressure on him, sending help and attention every time he touched the ball.
“With the status I had coming into the game, I’m pretty sure their game plan was to try and take away those shots or contest those shots really hard,” Davis said. “I don’t think I did a good job of dispersing the ball and finding my teammates. But a lot of those shots just were on me, rushed them or just didn’t get the look that I wanted to.”
It’s worth mentioning that Davis was limited in practice this week because of an ankle injury. How much did that impact his play? It’s hard to say. What the injury did do, though, was impact his time to prepare as he spent more of the week rehabbing than on the court.
“I’m sure getting back into a normal practice routine and getting into a rhythm will help him a lot,” Gard said.
The sophomore contributed in other ways, finishing with 11 rebounds and three assists, while playing solid defense. Still, his lack of production on offense, especially with his volume of shots, is difficult for a team like Wisconsin to overcome.
Stat of the Game: 57.1%
Wisconsin left nine points at the free throw line by going just 12-for-21. That was in contrast to Michigan State’s 18-for-24 showing.
“That’s not like us,” Wahl said of the struggles. “I would say we’re a pretty good free throw shooting team. It was an off day. We’ve got to get in the gym, see the ball go in a few times and hopefully we’re better next weekend.”
The Badgers fell to 1-3 this year when shooting 57% or less from the line.
What They Said
Davison on whether there is any concern the way the team is playing heading into the NCAA Tournament after back-to-back losses:
“No, not really. We’re not defined by two games. We’re probably more defined by the 30-some games before that. We’ve been there, done that. We’ve won a lot of close games. We’ve battled, we’ve done things the right way and we’ve had pretty good outcomes throughout the year. We look at this as learning opportunities, a lot of things we can do better and now we’ve got some time to rest and recover and fix those things so that we don’t have this feeling in a quiet locker room ever again.”
Wisconsin was not pleased with the officiating much of the night. This play drew plenty of ire from the sideline, the crowd and Twitter.
— Davison fouled out for the 10th time in his career and just the second time this year. He finished with a game-high 23 points.
— Wahl had eight points, the first time in six games he wasn’t in double digits. Wisconsin probably would have liked to get the junior more involved, as his four shots tied a season-low against Big Ten teams. He had not taken fewer than four shots in a game since the first week of the season.
— Wisconsin started 2-for-8 on layups and finished just 11-for-20. Over their last two games, the Badgers are just 24-for-40 on layups.
— Friday was the first time the Badgers had lost back-to-back games this season. Also, after winning 15-straight games decided by six or fewer points, they have lost two straight.
— This is the first time since 2015-16 and just the second time since 2011 that Wisconsin has failed to win at least one game at the Big Ten Tournament.
— Wisconsin finishes the regular season 24-7.
The Badgers will wait to see where the NCAA Tournament selection committee places them. Most bracketologists have Wisconsin as a No. 3 seed and playing the first two rounds at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.