When it looked like it just wasn’t going to be Wisconsin’s day, the Badgers came from 11-points down in the second half to force overtime. From there, the Badgers outscored Michigan State 11-0 to pull out a 80-69 win over the Spartans in the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
The win helped guanantee a number-1 seed for the Badgers. They’ll open the NCAA Tournament Friday night in Omaha, Nebraska against the 16-seed in the west, Coastal Carolina (8:20 p.m.). Coastal Carolina is the champion of the Big South Conference.
The Big Ten Tournament title is the first for the Badgers (31-1) since 2008 and third overall. The win also tied the program record for victories with 31.
Nigel Hayes scored 25 points to lead the Badgers. He had seven of the teams 11 in overtime and was named to the Big Ten’s all-tournament team. Hayes also hit 12 of 12 free throws in the win.
Frank Kaminsky added 19 points, 15 of the 19 in the second half. He was named the Tournament MVP.
Bronson Koenig, after struggling with just 1 point in the first half, scored 17 in the second to finish with 18 points for the game. He finished hitting 4 of 6 three-pointers. It was Koenig’s two free throws that tied the game at 69 and forced overtime.
Duje Dukan came off the bench and added 11 points for Wisconsin. He hit 3 of his 5 three-pointers.
Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine had 16 points apiece to lead Michigan State.
The winner of Friday’s Wisconsin-Coastal Carolina (24-9) game takes on the winner of the Oregon (25-9) vs. Oklahoma State (18-13) game.
The number 1-seed is a first for the Badgers. The preview best for the Badgers was a number 2-seed, both last year and in 2007.
Last season, the Badgers knocked off top-seeded Arizona in the West regional final in Anaheim. This year, it’s the Badgers who are number-one and the Wildcats (31-3) who are a number two seed in the same West region. Wisconsin and Arizona could be on a crash course to square off in the 2015 Regional final in Los Angeles.
In 2014, the Badgers also knocked off Baylor and Oregon on the way to a final four. Both are in the West region again this year.