Undisputed best: Wisconsin captures Big Ten tournament title in thrilling overtime win over Michigan State

first_imgCHICAGO – Michigan State was on its way to its second straight and third Big Ten tournament championship in the last four seasons.The Spartans could not miss as they opened up an 11-point lead in the second half over the Badgers.Wisconsin, meanwhile, was heading toward a disappointing end to what could have been a season sweep of conference titles.But it all changed.A 34-12 run by Wisconsin capped a remarkable finish to a game that gave the Badgers a Big Ten tournament championship and a season sweep of conference titles. It was a game that needed five more minutes to determine a champion, with Wisconsin emerging an 80-69 winner over Michigan State in overtime.Jason Chan/The Badger Herald“To go out the way we did and fight back and really take the Big Ten title was awesome,” Big Ten Player of the Year and Big Ten tournament Most Outstanding Player Frank Kaminsky said. “Our fans were great, just awesome environment to play in, and it was just a blast.”Down 57-46 to the Spartans with 7:45 left in the game – the Badgers largest deficit of the season – Wisconsin kept plugging away at the MSU lead and after two key threes from sophomore guard Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin was still hanging around down by eight.Then, Kaminsky drove, threw down a dunk and drew the and-one pulling Wisconsin within seven at 52-59. The momentum was officially in Wisconsin’s favor.Michigan State then turned the ball over, redshirt senior guard Josh Gasser grabbed it, Koenig drove the lane and finished.Wisconsin was down by just five.After another Spartan miss, sophomore forward Nigel Hayes drove, scored and drew another and-one for the Badgers who were now down by just two at 59-57.Jason Chan/The Badger HeraldAnd then Koenig came down and hit a clutch three with 4:16 left in the game to give Wisconsin its first lead since the 15:08 mark of the second half. That largest deficit of the season was suddenly gone.Both teams went back and forth for the rest of the half before Michigan State’s Branden Dawson missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer by mere inches.Wisconsin and Michigan State were going to the first overtime game in Big Ten championship game history and it belonged all to Wisconsin.Michigan State did not score a single point in the extra five minutes while Wisconsin started the overtime period with back-to-back threes from Hayes and Koenig and the Badgers sealed it with free throws to win their first conference championship title since 2008.“Well, we’ve done it before and we’ve been down all tournament,” Dekker said of coming back from a deficit. “So, I guess we just kind of had to ride it out and know that we were going to make a run and we started hitting some shots.”When it was all said and done, Hayes finished with a game-high 25 points with five rebounds, going 3-for-4 from three. Kaminsky added another 19 points with five rebounds and four assists while Koenig dropped 18 points with four threes.Both Kaminsky and Hayes were named to the all-tournament team.Koenig scored 18 of his 19 points in the second half, adding five assists and two rebounds. The sophomore guard took over, proving to himself, his team and the fans at the 17,213 fans at the United Center that no lead is safe against Wisconsin.“I saw all the Michigan State fans and their team cheering and everything – they thought they had us when we were down 11,” Koenig said. “But I just kept telling my teammates that they think they got us but just keep working, never give up and that’s what we did.”Jason Chan/The Badger HeraldMichigan State shot exceptionally well to put Wisconsin on the ropes. The Spartans began the second half 10-for-15 (66.7 percent) shooting 22-for-37 (59.5 percent) as a team.But from there, the Spartans were just 5-for-15 (33.3 percent) and 0-for-6 during overtime.“That shows…what Wisconsin basketball is all about,” Gasser said of shutting out the Spartans in overtime. “People think we’re good offensively, we can get up and down a little bit and we got some people with good talent. But what Wisconsin basketball is all about is toughness and defending.”In the first half, neither team held more than a five-point lead as the score was tied seven times and the lead changed sides five times. Michigan State finished the half on a 10-5 run to take a 32-31 lead at halftime.Wisconsin redshirt senior forward Duje Dukan came off the bench in the first half and scored eight points. He finished the game with 11 points, going 4-for-6 overall and 3-for-5 from three for the game.The Spartans outscored the Badgers in the paint 14-8 and shot 54.5 percent (12-for-22) as a team in the first 20 minutes of play. Wisconsin took more than half (14) of its shots from beyond the arc in the first half, making only five, and was 11-for-26 (42.3 percent) overall from the field. In the second half, Wisconsin went 6-for-10 from three and 2-for-2 in overtime.The win gave Wisconsin a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. It was also the team’s 31st win this season – the most in program history.But while Wisconsin has the regular season Big Ten championship, the Big Ten tournament championship, there’s still plenty more out there for the Badgers to earn and certainly none of it is guaranteed.“It’s nice to have the one seed, but that doesn’t mean that we’re guaranteed a Final Four appearance or anything like that because going off of last year, there was not a one seed in the Final Four and a one seed did not end up winning, so we still have to go out there and leave it on the court,” Hayes said.last_img

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