The Big Ten's two worst teams were in action Wednesday night as Rutgers and Minnesota matched up with two of the conference's hottest teams. While Wisconsin and Michigan State are getting ready for an NCAA Tournament run, Minnesota and Rutgers are just trying to play spoilers at this point in the season.
Let's take a look at the action from Wednesday night.
Game of the Night: Michigan State Spartans 97, Rutgers Scarlet Knights 66
With Wisconsin pretty much handling Minnesota the whole game, Rutgers ended up being the surprise of the night as they hung with the Spartans for 20 minutes.
I wasn't in the Michigan State locker room at halftime of Wednesday nights' game, but I can guess it wasn't much fun for the players that were. Giving up 41 points to a Scarlet Knights' team that's 0-16 in Big Ten play probably didn't please a coach that has taken 7 teams to the Final Four. In the second half, however, the Spartan's played like they could be Izzo's 8th Final Four team as they pulled away from Rutgers and won 97-66.
A surprisingly tight first half featured 11 lead changes as Michigan State ended up with a 43-41 halftime lead. Returning from a 4 game suspension, Corey Sanders carried the Scarlet Knights in the first half as he scored 15 points on 6-9 shooting. The freshman guard also added 4 assists to his first half performance, and went on a personal 7-0 run to put Rutgers ahead 22-19 midway through the half.
Sanders would be matched offensively, however, in the first half by Bryn Forbes, who also scored 15 points, all from downtown as he was 5-8 from deep. The senior guard's last three with 11 seconds left in the first half gave Michigan State the halftime lead, and they would never look back.
The Spartans would start the second half on a 20-3 run to stretch their two point half time lead to 19 in under 6 minutes. This run included 3 more Bryn Forbes' deep balls as he lifted his total to 8 for the game. The Lansing, Michigan native wasn't done, though.
Forbes would add three more treys later in the second half, finishing the game with 33 points on 11-16 shooting from behind the arc. This not only set a Michigan State record for most trifectas in a game, but also a Big Ten single game record. In other news, I'm running out of ways to say three pointer.
In the end, the Spartans ran away with a 97-66 victory as Denzel Valentine helped Forbes out adding 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. Michigan State will wrap up their regular season against Ohio State in East Lansing on Saturday.
Sanders managed just 4 points in the second half as the Spartans held Rutgers to 25 points in the second 20 minutes. No player on Rutgers managed more than 3 rebounds as Michigan State out-rebounded the Scarlet Knights 50-24. Rutgers will have one last chance to get a Big Ten win in maybe their easiest conference game at home against Minnesota on Saturday.
While Rutgers at least hung in with Michigan State for a half, Wisconsin buried the Minnesota early. The day after suspending 3 players, the shorthanded Golden Gophers never had a lead in a game they ultimately dropped 62-49 to the Badgers.
As Minnesota tried to hang around in the first half, the Golden Gophers were hurt by a 10 minutes scoring lull. Richard Pitino's team managed just 7 points in over 10 minutes as the Badgers lead grew from 15-11 to 38-18.
Bronson Koenig sparked the Badgers offense in the first 20 minutes as he scored 12 points and added 5 assists. Altogether, the junior guard was responsible for 25 of Wisconsin's 40 first half points.
After the Badger lead ballooned to 21 points with under 15 minutes to go, the Golden Gophers didn't go away. Pitino's team fought back with an 11-1 run to pull within 11 points, the closest they'd been since 7 minutes to go in the first half. It wasn't enough, however as Wisconsin's lead never fell to single digits.
Besides Koenig's solid night, the Badgers got big contributions from Ethan Happ (12 points and 10 rebounds) and Vitto Brown (12 points and 6 rebounds). Wisconsin has one more Big Ten showdown before the conference tournament as they travel to Purdue on Sunday.
Undermanned Minnesota got a majority of their scoring from two players. Freshman Jordan Murphy and Stephon Sharp combined for 31 of the Golden Gophers 49 points. Bakary Konat was the only Gopher to score off the bench with 5 points and 14 rebounds. Minnesota will play its final game on the road at Rutgers.