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March 10, 2012

Badgers go cold in semifinal

INDIANAPOLIS -- Momentum is a relative term in March.

In a month that is all about which team can get the hottest at the right time and stay that way the longest, momentum can switch pretty quickly. Just look at Wisconsin's 65-52 loss Saturday to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

Both teams came in off wins, with the Badgers riding a four-game winning streak. UW used that momentum to jump out to an 11-point lead 10 minutes into the game. A 3-pointer by Jared Berggren put the score at 20-9, and then everything changed just 30 seconds later.

Austin Thornton hit a 3-pointer cutting the lead and shifting the momentum. Thornton connected for another 45 seconds later, and a third at the 7:56 mark to make it a 20-18 game. Thornton would add a fourth made 3-pointer in the second half, giving him 12 points for the game on four shot attempts.

"They went on a big run right there," Mike Bruesewitz said. "They got out in transition and started getting some easy buckets. They strung some stops together and knocked down shots. And that's how you go on runs."

That set of 3-pointers by Thornton got Michigan State back in the game, and the 26-5 run that it helped spark to finish the first-half turned the game around. After being down 11 midway through the first half, the Spartans were up 10 at the break.

It was a tale of two halves of the first half for Wisconsin.

"It just flipped the script completely," Jordan Taylor said. "They flipped the script, got the lead up for themselves, and that obviously made it tough for us.

"We cut it to six, but we spent a lot of energy trying to come back," Taylor said. "It's just kind of tough to swing the momentum like that. They took advantage of the opportunities that they had, and they were also opportunities that we gave them."

The second half really did not go a whole lot better for the Badgers, either.

MSU pushed the lead to 19 points with a 11-2 run to open the period, making the Badgers' hole even more difficult to climb out of. UW followed with a 13-0 run of its own, but that would only take the Badgers so far.

Once they had cut the deficit to six points with 12:18 to play, the Badgers hit another scoring drought. Michigan State started hitting shots again and an 11-0 run all but sealed the game for the Spartans.

"That was a hard-fought game yesterday. It was a hard-fought game today," head coach Bo Ryan said. "That 13-zip run in the second half showed me something about our guys. I don't know what we had left. Michigan State obviously had more.

"We get it to six and we're right there, but we didn't have enough after that."

UW managed to cut it to 11 with a minute to go, but never got any closer.

Not only did the Badgers struggle to score after their hot start, they struggled to get more than two players to contribute offensively. While Taylor and Ryan Evans had 19 and 18 points, respectively, the rest of the team combined for just 15.

Rob Wilson and Berggren each contributed six points, while Frank Kaminsky added a single 3-point basket.

Wilson went from 30 points one day to six the next. He knew as early as following Friday's victory that Michigan State would focus a lot on stopping him, and they did.

The Spartans' defense effectively limited Wilson's open looks, and the ones he did get, Wilson was unable to convert. After shooting 7-of-10 from 3-point range against Indiana, the senior guard hit just 2-of-5 shots Saturday, including 1-for-3 from beyond the arc.

"Definitely," Keith Appling said. "The scouting report kind of changed. We wanted to close out on him as if he was an [elite] shooter. We did, and it was tough for him to get going."

Wisconsin now will await the NCAA tournament selection show Sunday evening, to find out when, where and who it will play next.

While they did lose their most recent game, the Badgers should go into next weekend with some momentum on their side.

But that's all relative.


Postgame Audio

Jordan Taylor

Jared Berggren

Josh Gasser

Mike Bruesewitz

Keith Appling


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