#2 Michigan State Takes Down Wisconsin 63-60 Here in New York City

Madison Square Garden

New York City, NY

For the third time this season, #2 Michigan State, 29-3, beat the Wisconsin Badgers.  This time here in New York City in the Big Ten Tournament by a final score of 63-60.

The Spartans fought through first game tournament jitters to jettison the pesky and feisty Badgers.  Miles Bridges led the way for the Spartans with 20 points, nine rebounds, and two assists.  Cassius Winston was the only other Spartan to reach double digits.  He dropped 17 points and added five rebounds and five assists.

I asked Winston about the first game jitters and he said, “We got a couple good shots that we missed that we usually make. It was a lot going into the game, the first game is always the hardest game. So it’s a lot we can learn and get better from. And we got another op”

Bridges echoed the claims of his point guard, “We’re definitely excited we get to play here for a championship at the mecca of basketball. We had to get some first-game jitters out of the way. But I feel like once we got that out of the way we got comfortable and we got going.”

Tom Izzo said of the game, “I did not think we played very well. I thought the first half we were really out of sync. And so we talked about it as a team and we just gotta do some better things. Cassius was unbelievable the first half. Miles played really well the second half. And those guys brought us back in it.”

The Spartans were not spectacular, but one and done season known as March, they survived and advanced.  The Spartans gave the ball away 11 times, but the owned the boards 41-27.  The Spartans shot 43% while their usual stellar defense struggled allowing Wisconsin to make 46% of their shots.  The Spartans were an impressive 10/11 from the charity stripe.

Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said afterward of the amazing Miles Bridges, “his addition to the 3-point shot to his game has changed it. And it not only helps him, it helps Ward inside and other guys inside, Jackson inside because now you’ve got to stretch the floor. You’ve got to stay with Winston and Langford and McQuaid. And it gives those guys inside a little more room to operate. And then he’s added some play-making ability. His ability to change direction with the ball, some of the things he’s done not only today but in other games, in the past, he’s been primarily a straight-line driver. And he was able to change direction. He put — he had a good move there on Davison in the second half where he got separation and got a jump shot off. So he’s becoming a much more complete player. And obviously, at his size he’s a matchup problem too at 6’8″ with his ability to play inside and outside. And he’s evolved as you would expect him to.”

But the story of this game was Tom Izzo adjustment.  He moved Bridges to the four and Jackson started to dominate at the five.  It was a brilliant move by the Hall of Famer.

Gard said that the lineup move by Izzo was once again the key to his Badgers falling to the Spartans.  “I think it’s not only Jackson at the 5 but I think it’s Bridges at the 4 because we went with our more mobile 4 down the stretch, too, and the lean forward. So they were doing some things to counter what we were doing in terms of trying to stretch the floor more with our 4-man. So I think it was more — I don’t know because I haven’t asked Tom about his rotations or who he has in, but I know they were trying to match what we were doing with Ford a little bit too, and to go a little more mobile and smaller on the perimeter. They’ve done that before. Bridges has played the 4 a lot in the past.”

Izzo said of moving 3J to the five and Bridges to the four that, “We thought we could stretch things out because Happ doesn’t come out a lot. We thought we could do a better job of stretching things out. And Jaren gives us — now we’ve got a 4 and 5 that are stretched. And Jaren’s done a good job. Today was one of those days where he reverted back and we couldn’t — a couple of reach-in fouls, although the last foul I think was a question mark. But he deserved probably three of his five. And we just gotta keep him in the game because Jaren Jackson is very valuable to this team. So we went to that as we went to it in Madison last week, and we’ll probably do a little bit more of that, because he’s a better free throw shooter than a lot of those other guys. And he is a shot blocker, and we can use him to switch 5 which is what we wanted to do.”

The Spartans have won 12 straight games and have their eye on a number one seed in the NCAA tournament that could come their way if they win this tournament.  The Spartans record on the regular season was the best in Spartan history.

The Spartans play their arch nemesis the Michigan Wolverines next.  This game tips off tomorrow at 2 PM.  It can be seen on CBS.

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