And then there were four. The top four seeds in the Big Ten all won on Friday to advance to the conference semifinals. The Wisconsin Badgers, Maryland Terrapins, and Michigan State Spartans are safely in the big dance are are now all about improving their resume and seeding. While the Purdue Boilermakers have had a remarkable season and surprised many, they do not feel as comfortable about their tournament status, depending on who you ask. Let’s recap today’ B1G semifinals.
WISCONSIN TOO MUCH IN SECOND HALF FOR PURDUE
Wisconsin and head coach Bo Ryan struggled early on against a stingy Purdue defense. They trailed by 5 points going into the locker room at halftime. Apparently Ryan sent a pretty strong message to his team during that break. The Badgers came up in the second half and completely shut down the Boilermakers, outscoring them 41-16. They went on to win by a final score of 71-51.
The Badgers had four of their starting five in double-figures Saturday afternoon. Senior Frank Kaminsky scored 12 points, and for the second game in a row, struggled in terms of what his standards are by many experts and critics. Wisconsin’s depth, maturity, and experience is what makes them one of the best in the country. Sophomore guard Bronson Koenig had a team- and game-high 19 points, including 3-5 from 3-point range. The always disciplined, Bo Ryan-coached Badgers only turned the ball over the 3 times in the game. They led the nation in fewest turnovers per game this season.
Purdue started off very well in the first half, hanging with the Badgers and maintaining a lead for much of the first twenty minutes. They went the first five minutes in the second half without scoring a point, and paired with a 10-0 run by the Badgers, was the early dagger for Purdue. Only one player was in double-figure scoring. Junior center A.J. Hammons, who was given the task of defending Frank Kaminsky for most of the game and did well, scored 10 points. Purdue shot just 37.3% from the field in the game, but did have 20 points from their bench.
Purdue will now anxiously wait and see if and where their name will be called on Sunday when the field is announced. Wisconsin advances to the finals to play the winner of Maryland vs. Michigan State, hoping to cement a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
SPARTANS OVERCOME EARLY DEFICIT, ADVANCE TO FINALS
It is very difficult to beat a team three times in one season in college basketball. Maryland had a chance to do that in the second semifinal match-up against Michigan State. Early on in the game, it started to look like that was going to happen for the Terps. But with some strong defense and big shots and plays from their seniors, the Spartans came back and won by a score of 62-58.
Spartans head coach Tom Izzo saw his team start the game down 23-7 over eight minutes into the game. Michigan State would score 31 of the next 44 points in the game to take their first lead in the second half, leading to a tightly contested finish. Guard Denzel Valentine hit his first bucket in the game to give the Spartans their first lead. It would be his lone bucket, but he’d also record 4 rebounds and 7 assists. Seniors Travis Trice and Branden Dawson combined for 37 points for Michigan State, including some big buckets and free throws in crunch time. Junior forward Matt Costello had 10 points off the bench as well.
Maryland came storming out of the game, looking like they were going to run away with it. Freshman guard Melo Trimble led all scorers with 22 points. He made his first 5 shots of the game, and had 13 points within the first 7 minutes. He was then kept in check by the Spartans defense until late in the contest. Senior guard Dez Wells struggled to get anything going on for much of the game, and found himself in some early foul trouble for the Terrapins. He finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds.
Maryland suffered just their 6th loss of the season in their first year as a member of the B1G conference. They should earn a high seeding when the brackets are revealed. Michigan State will play on, continuing the building of their tournament resume, and now has a date with Wisconsin in the championship game.
BIG TEN MEN’S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT – CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
(1) Wisconsin Badgers VS (3) Michigan State Spartans – 3:30 P.M. on CBS
**The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament “Selection Show” will follow the conclusion of the game at 6:00 P.M.