#1 Michigan State Claims Outright Big Ten Title in 68-63 Win Over Wisconsin
#1 MSU improved to 28-3 (16-2) to conclude the greatest regular season in Spartan history with the 68-63 win over Wisconsin a short time ago. They are the OUTRIGHT Big Ten Champs. This was their first win in Madison in 5 years.
Surrounded by wild and outrageous media speculation all week (READ ABOUT IT HERE) the Spartans were able to dismiss the outside noise and get a great road win, in a place that they have struggled to do that. It was a jubilant locker room afterward.
The story of the game was Cassius Winton dropping 20 points and gathering six rebounds with five assists. He was sensational and on this Badger senior day, was the best player from either team on the court.
Michigan State head Coach Tom Izzo said of his super sophomore point guard that, “Cassius Winton from Christmas on has been one of the best players that we have had. Give him more credit. He has been a coach on the floor and really grown from a freshman to a sophomore.”
Nick Ward had 14 points and six rebounds. Jaren Jackson (3J) had 11 points and six rebounds and Miles Bridges added 10 points and eight rebounds to round out the Michigan State double digit scorers.
Wisconsin Coach Greg Gard said of the contest that, “This group has continued to persevere and continued to work. It hasn’t been easy, and obviously, we have our limitations, but they’ve improved and become more consistent as well as any group we’ve had around here. In terms of where we’ve started from and what we had to work through with our inexperience and with having to shuffle the deck in December, we couldn’t have competed like this with this group in mid-January. They’ve stuck with it and have been very, very resilient.”
Again the Spartans had a disappointing 13 turnovers compared to only four y Wisconsin. But the Spartans owned the battle of the boards 40-28. The Spartans had an uncharacteristic 10 assists on 23 baskets. MSU had an 8-1 advantage with blocks.
Izzo added, “Unbelievable day for us. I feel like with everything we’ve been through, these guys showed some incredible mental toughness and persevered through. I thought there was some championship DNA in there the way they handled things when we were up by 10 and then down by two. I thought we made some big plays. Miles (Bridges) struggled early and Jaren (Jackson Jr.) struggled early. I thought we had some good shots, we just missed them. You’ve got to give (Brad) Davison some credit. The other guy banks in the 3 and you start wondering if it’s your day. Somehow, some way, we found a way with Winston making some key plays and then both Bridges and Jackson hit some big free throws down the stretch. It was a physical game, I give (Greg) Gard a lot of credit, his team did an unbelievable job. They’re tough as nails. Those freshmen are going to be good players, and (Ethan) Happ’s a heck of a player, he’s hard to guard. I thought in the first half we missed some free throws and some open shots. In the second half, I thought we made a lot of free throws and that may have been the difference in the game.”
The Spartans have clinched a double bye in next week’s Big Ten tournament. That tournament is taking place in New York City at the famed Madison Square Garden. When the Spartans tip off on Friday (Team and time TBA) you can watch that game on BTN.
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