INDIANAPOLIS — Spin the wheel for which Michigan State basketball team will show up, and spin it again for which Spartan will deliver a surprise performance.
It was Marcus Bingham Jr. and Joey Hauser’s turn. And Tyson Walker continued to contribute key clutch plays down the stretch as Tom Izzo’s team delivered a second straight survive-and-advance gut-check performance.
Walker hit a pair of jump shots with less than two minutes to play after Bingham and Hauser combined for 20 second-half points as No. 7 seed MSU upset co-league champion and No. 2 seed Wisconsin, 69-63, in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals Friday night.
“This was a joy,” Izzo said. “In a normal year, it would have just been, ‘Let’s move on.’ … I felt some joy, because I was happy that some guys came through and did the things that you’ve taught.”
The Spartans (22-11) will play the winner of Friday night’s game between third-seeded No. 9 Purdue and 11th-seeded Penn State at approximately 3:30 pm at Gainbridge Fieldhouse (CBS). It tips off 25 minutes after the 1 pm between No. 9 seed Indiana and No. 5 seed Iowa, and the semifinal winners advance to Sunday’s 3:30 pm championship game.
No. 12 Wisconsin (24-7) tied the game at 58 with 1:54 to play on a Chucky Hepburn 3-pointer. But Walker hits a short jumper with 1:32 to play, Gabe Brown grabbed a defensive rebound after a Hepburn heave at the other end, and Walker hits another shot from the right elbow to put MSU up by four with 58.4 to play.
“Everybody has a big need to take those shots,” Walker said. “And when I came off, I had that shot a couple times and I rushed it. So when I came off this time, I was just patient and followed through and everything. It felt good.”
Freshman Max Christie delivered a key rebound with 21.7 to go and hit a pair of free throws after a Brad Davison layup and missed foul shot.
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Hepburn buried a 3-pointer to cut the Spartans’ lead to 65-63 with 16.2 seconds remaining.
After a Badgers timeout to set up the press — which gave MSU problems 24 hours earlier in an escape against Maryland — Walker was fouled and made both free throws with 15.4 seconds to play; he followed that with and made two more with 4.8 to play to send the Spartans sprawling onto the court in celebration as time expired.
“We sure got our work cut out for us now,” Izzo said of the quick turnaround into Saturday’s semifinals.
Bingham tied a career high with 19 points, 13 of them in the second half, and grabbed seven of his 11 rebounds after halftime. Walker scored nine of his 10 points in the final 1:32. Hauser finished with nine points, seven of them in the second half.
“The team did a hell of a job playing defense, getting stops and rebounds and running,” Bingham said. “When we got stops, that all tied into it, too.”
But Christie delivered another massive performance. He scored just eight points and did not take a 3-pointer, but he helped MSU’s defense smother Big Ten Player of the Year Johnny Davis all night. The Wisconsin star scored just 11 points on 3-for-19 shooting, missing all five of his 3-point attempts, with 11 rebounds.
“Every time he caught the ball, we just wanted to be in our gaps, have six eyes on him, make it tough for him, because he’s a heck of a player,” Walker said of Davis. “He can make tough shots. Every shot he took we wanted to be contested, and we didn’t want nothing easy for him.”
Davison, who fouled out late, scored 23 points, while Hepburn added 11.
After committing seven turnovers in the final 2:26 against Maryland on Thursday, MSU had a season-low seven turnovers the entire game against Wisconsin. That included just one in the second half. And the Spartans held Wisconsin to 36.7% shooting overall and 7-for-24 from 3-point range, which help offset their own struggles from outside (1-for-11).
“I’m just excited that we won a game and get a chance to advance,” Izzo said. “And maybe start to do some of the things we hadn’t done, like (defend) better and not turn the ball over.”
3 yards and a cloud of dust
The first half felt like a throwback to the 2000 national semifinal and other meetings between the Spartans and Badgers, a grinder of the Izzo-vs.-Dick Bennett school of stifling defense and limited offense.
MSU held Wisconsin to 3-for-16 shooting in the first 9½ minutes, building a 14-6 lead on Julius Marble’s deep post hook as the Spartans continually pounded the ball in the paint and drew five combined fouls on the Badgers’ 7-footers Steven Crowl and Chris Vogt.
MSU’s 6-8 junior went 3-for-3 in the half for eight points with four rebounds as the Spartans went 6-for-14 early.
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Defensively, the Spartans bottled up Davis for most of the half, forcing him to miss his first eight attempts and holding him to four points and 1-for-10 shooting in the half. MSU limited the Badgers to just 7-for-29 overall in the half.
“Tom does a great job of gapping, he always has,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said of MSU’s defensive plan. “There’s going to be extra guys in the gap, and we’ve seen that for years. They do a good job of it, they execute it and follow the plan and just try to shut off his daylight as much as possible. I thought they did a good job of that, and it wasn’t unexpected. It’s how it’s been in some of the other games.”
But after the quick start, the Spartans’ offense dried up and they went 1-for-7 the rest of the half. The two teams combined to miss all 11 of their 3-point attempts, but Davison scored 10 to help pull Wisconsin within 24-22 at halftime. The Badgers controlled the boards, 21-17, with an 8-0 offensive rebounding advantage but just four points off them.
“Going into halftime, we didn’t have any offensive rebounds, so coach challenged me in the halftime,” Bingham said. “So he’s just coming out with that energy again and trying to prove him right.”
It went back and forth from there. MSU got a pair of early Brown baskets, but Crowl scored inside and hit the first 3-pointer of the game for either team. Then Davis got going off an inbound pass, drawing contact on Brown and converting the three-point play to give the Badgers their first lead, 32-30, with 15:58 to play.
Then Bingham and Hauser caught fire.
Bingham checked back in with 13:10 to play and delivered a tour de force performance, crashing the boards hard and scoring around the basket with strength. The 7-footer scored 11 straight points for the Spartans, two buckets on alley-oops from AJ Hoggard — one of those a three-point play — and two more on put-backs off offensive rebounds.
Izzo said that was a major point of emphasis for Bingham as he and assistant coach Dwayne Stephens “went a little old-school on him” during halftime in the locker room.
“There was a come-to-the-big fella meeting at halftime with me and (Stephens),” Izzo said of Bingham. “If you just keep his tail in that post some, he’s really an effective player. And it helped him get some more rebounds, because if you’re outside, you don’t get them. So we encourage him to stay in there, and he did a hell of a job and deserves a lot of credit.”
Hauser then drained a 3-pointer and came off a screen for a foul-line jumper to put MSU up 52-44 with 6:46 to play. Davison hits a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around a Hoggard jumper, then Hauser hits another jumper to make it 56-50 with 5:27 to play.
But Hauser picked up a fourth foul and sat, and Wisconsin climbed back into it with a pair of Hepburn 3-pointers, with another Bingham bucket between.
“We’ve done some other things better in the game at East Lansing that we weren’t as good as today,” Gard said. “And that’s a credit to Michigan State because when we made a mistake, they capitalized on some of the things.”
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