Sloan: Takeaways from MSU’s semifinal win over Wisconsin


Luke Sloan, Assistant Sports Editor

CHICAGO — Michigan State won their semifinal game of the Big Ten tournament over Wisconsin, 67-55. Here are Luke Sloan’s takeaways from Chicago.

Goins gets going from deep

After finishing 2-of-8 from beyond the arc in MSU’s quarterfinal victory over Ohio State, Kenny Goins responded in a big way, leading his team with 4-of-7 shooting from distance. The senior finished with 13 points overall after scoring just eight against the Buckeyes.

The impressive aspect of Goins’ feat was the way he responded quickly and with relative ease, setting a new tone for himself and his team. He netted the Spartans’ first points of the afternoon with a 3-pointer less than 30 seconds into the game, eventually knocking down two more triples in the first 10 minutes of play.

Goins also led his team in rebounds with 12 while playing all but four minutes of the contest. The Spartans as a team shot the ball from beyond the arc, making 43 percent of their 3-pointers after shooting 41 percent yesterday,

Ward struggles in second game back

Nick Ward continued his uphill climb of getting back in shape and getting up to game speed, struggling on both ends of the floor for a second consecutive game. Ward only attempted two shots, scoring just two points while also picking up four fouls. The junior also recorded four fouls in yesterday’s matchup with Ohio State.

It is to Ward’s disadvantage that he made his return during the Big Ten tournament, as the pace and intensity of play is much higher than when he was injured in the regular season. This can be to blame for the fouls, with a number of them coming when he was a step behind the action.

Ward did have more success on the offensive end against the Buckeyes though, putting up eight points in just 14 minutes. He played 11 minutes today, another small total due to the lingering foul trouble he endured. The Spartans will however continue to monitor his minutes in order to get the big man back up to speed.

Wisconsin can’t rebound from rough start

The Badgers found themselves having to play from behind for the entirety of the game, never leading the contest after an slow start hindered all momentum. Michigan State jumped out to a 27-10 lead until an Ethan Happ layup stopped the bleeding with 7:25 remaining in the half. The deficit proved too much for Wisconsin to overcome.

The No. 4-seeded team didn’t make a single basket from outside the paint for the first 15 minutes of the contest, ending the drought thanks to a Kobe King 3-pointer with 4:23 until halftime. The Spartans took advantage of this stretch, shooting 45 percent on the other end and continuing to grow the lead.

It was a cold-shooting afternoon overall for the Badgers, who shot just 35 percent from the field and only knocked down two 3-pointers in 19 attempts. Excluding converted free throws, only 10 points were made outside the paint on the game for Wisconsin.

Limiting Happ’s touches early

The big challenge defensively for the Spartans headed into the semifinal matchup was slowing down Ethan Happ, the leading big man in the Big Ten. Happ entered the game averaging 17.4 points per game to go along with 10.3 rebounds.

Xavier Tillman saw the majority of work against Happ, and succeeded in slowing him down. Ward had previously had success guarding the 6-foot-10 big man, but he was uneffective today, not receiving a chance due to foul trouble.

Michigan State limited Happ to just three touches and two points in the first ten minutes of the game. The Badgers were forced to find offense in different places, adding to their cold stretch as they don’t have another main offensive weapon outside of Happ.

Matchup with Michigan?

The Spartans’ victory over Wisconsin ensured them a place in the finals of the Big Ten tournament, a game they haven’t played in since 2015, when these Badgers emerged victorious 80-69 in overtime. Like tomorrow’s game, that finals matchup was played at the United Center.

Following the game many questions to players and coaches were asked about how the Spartans would feel about facing their rival Michigan for a third time this season. None of them took the bait, exclaiming that Sunday’s championship game is just another opportunity to pick up a title, not giving any thought about facing the Wolverines for a third time in 21 days.

The two rivalry games played this season have both swung the way of the Spartans, with the team utilizing two big second-half performances to pick up the victories. No matter the opponent, MSU will hit the floor again tomorrow for a chance at another trophy. The winner of Michigan and Minnesota will await.