By Michael Hemmerle
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – A Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament marked by its unpredictability – with the top two-seeded teams eliminated before the semifinal round for the first time in its 24-year history, has retained one tradition.
The Michigan State Spartans are in the semifinals.
The seventh-seeded Spartans eliminated No. 2 Wisconsin, 69-63, at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Michigan State (22-11) advanced to a semifinal meeting with No. 3 Purdue on Saturday afternoon. The semifinal appearance will be the ninth in 12 seasons for the Spartans, and the 16th time in 24 tournaments.
“I love Indianapolis, and I love March,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. “How’s that?”
The Spartans made 58% of their shots in the second half after a first half that brought back memories of a dreary Michigan State-Wisconsin matchup in the 2000 Final Four. “Offensively, it was something that probably would make Dick Bennett and Bo Ryan proud,” Izzo said of former Wisconsin coaches. “It was typical Michigan State-Wisconsin. First guy to 50 wins.”
Senior center Marcus Bingham, Jr. led the Spartans with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and had 11 rebounds. He blocked three shots, the 18th multi-block game of the year.
“I’m proud of him, but happy for him,” Izzo said.
Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, the sophomore guard and Big Ten Player of the Year, struggled in his first game after suffering what Wisconsin officials described as a lower body injury last Sunday. Davis scored 11 points on 3-of-19 shooting, with 11 rebounds.
“I just missed shots,” Davis said. “It happens in the game of basketball.”
The tempo and offensive efficiency picked up in the second half. Each team had droughts, but things began to click. Michigan State’s 58% shooting in the second half was a turnaround from the 33% rate in the first half. The Badgers doubled their 24% shooting in the first half, improving to a 48% effort.
“From here on out,” said Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, “40 minutes is all we’re guaranteed.”