In one of the most thrilling Big Ten Tournament Championship games in a long time, Wisconsin was able to run away with the game in overtime and defeat the Michigan State Spartans 80-69. The game was fairly back and forth, and Michigan State proved their ability to play tough basketball for the first 40 minutes of the game. But with the game on the line, the Badgers did what they've been doing all year long: they won. And they did so by shutting out the Spartans in overtime with an 11-0 run in the extra session.
For a long time during this game, it looked as if the Spartans would pull off the upset and win their second straight Big Ten Tournament. The Spartans had a 32-31 lead going into the halftime locker room and were going toe-to-toe with Frank Kaminsky and the Badgers. Michigan State opened up the second half as hot as they've been all season, and some big buckets put it out to an 11 point 57-46 lead with about 7 minutes left in the game, but back came the Badgers.
Frank Kaminsky led his team right back into the game with a couple of big buckets. Bronson Koening hit a huge three to take back the lead with just under 5 minutes remaining. The sophomore point guard finished with 18 points and 4 huge three point buckets. Frank Kaminsky's three put the Badgers up 67-64 with just under two minutes to play, but two quick buckets by the Spartans gave them the lead back at 69-67.
The Spartans threw the ball right into the hands of Sam Dekker and Koening got to the line where he converted two free throws with just under 10 seconds remaining in the game. The contested jumper at the buzzer by Branden Dawson rattled out, and the Big Ten Championship Game was going to an extra session for the first time ever.
Despite the close contest by Michigan State in the first 40 minutes, the next 5 strictly belonged to the Badgers. Michigan State was held scoreless in the extra session, and Wisconsin opened up a 6 point lead with two huge threes by Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koening. The Badgers take both the Regular Season Championship and the Conference Tournament Championship as they muscle their way to a huge victory in Chicago.
What We Learned
Wisconsin Has the Caliber to go far in the NCAA Tournament
If we didn't know it before, we know it now. Wisconsin is good, and even though they've cruised to a number of relatively easy victories this season, a comeback win over the Spartans is a huge morale booster to this team. Wisconsin showed that it can win games even if it doesn't control them through their entirety. It faced its largest deficit of the season at 11 after Michigan State took a 57-46 lead with just under 7 minutes remaining, but Bo Ryan told his senior star Frank Kaminsky to step up his game. Surely, Frank Kaminsky delivered, and he showed that he's one of the best players in the country with his play-making ability down the stretch.
Kaminsky grabbed the momentum of the game with an And-1 bucket and a back-down basket in the paint. There may not have been a bigger shot for Kaminsky than his three pointer with just under 2 minutes to go in the game. His catch-and-shoot three gave the Badgers the three point lead and helped boost their momentum going into the extra session. Look for this team to do some serious damage in March and maybe even into April.
Bronson Koening is a Sophomore who Plays like a Senior
Koening has stepped up big time in the absence of leading point guard Traevon Jackson. The sophomore hit big shots when Wisconsin needed them, giving them their first lead after trailing by 11 with a huge three pointer late in the second half. Koening scored 18 points, and even more impressively, he dished out 9 assists while only turning the ball over 3 times. Koening had a very impressive 0 turnovers in Wisconsin's game against Purdue.
The bottom line is that Koening is beginning to show Wisconsin level caliber: toughness, leadership, and the ability to hit shots in the heat of the moment. With Jackson's injury this season, Wisconsin has been fortunate enough to see the young and talented guard step up his game and deliver night-in and night-out.
Michigan State is Playing Very Good Basketball at the end of the Season
The Michigan State Spartans always seem to finish their season on a positive note, and even though this season didn't end with a Big Ten Tournament championship like last year's did, it is undoubtedly a good sign for Tom Izzo to see his team playing with such toughness and intensity. Michigan State struggled early on in the season, losing to sub-par teams like Texas Southern and Nebraska, but surely enough, Izzo's squad finds a way to turn things around at the end of the season. Michigan State finished the season with good wins over Indiana, Ohio State, Purdue, and Maryland, and it has surely shown the ability to compete with anyone in the conference, and subsequently, anyone in the nation. Trice, Dawson, and Valentine all have found their stroke as of late, so look for them to lead their team deep into the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin's win gives the Badgers a number 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament where they will face Coastal Carolina in the First Round. Wisconsin will look to make its second straight Final Four run, but standing in its way on the other end of the bracket is Arizona as a two-seed, a team that will be looking for revenge after losing to Wisconsin in last year's Elite Eight.
Michigan State slides into the NCAA Tournament as a 7 seed where they will face Georgia in the first round. If Michigan State could reach the round of 32, it could square off against the Virginia Cavaliers for the second straight year in the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan State beat Virginia last year in the Sweet 16.