Michigan St.-Wisconsin Preview
Frank Kaminsky can be described as a late bloomer, bursting on the scene last season as a junior to help guide Wisconsin to the Final Four.
The national player of the year candidate will play his last game at the Kohl Center on Sunday looking to help the fifth-ranked Badgers secure a share of the Big Ten regular-season title against a Michigan State team coming off another disappointing defeat.
Kaminsky averaged 2.9 points while starting two of 67 games through his first two seasons before averaging 13.9 points along with a team-best 6.3 rebounds in 2013-14. The 7-footer has been even better this season for Wisconsin (25-3, 13-2), ranking second in the conference in rebounding (8.8 per game), third in field-goal percentage (54.4) and fourth in scoring (17.7).
The Badgers had a chance to clinch a share of their first Big Ten championship since 2008 on Tuesday, but a 59-53 loss at No. 14 Maryland snapped their 10-game winning streak.
"It’s definitely frustrating," said Kaminsky, who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. "We’ve had a great season so far. We haven’t really been tested many times like this. … I think we’re going to learn a lot from it."
Wisconsin looks to regroup in its final game at home, where it has won 10 straight since losing to Duke on Dec. 3.
Guard Traevon Jackson will participate in Senior Day, but he still hasn’t been cleared to practice due to a broken foot that has kept him out of action since Jan. 11.
Jackson hit a jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining to give Wisconsin a 60-58 win over Michigan State last season as the Badgers improved to 9-2 against the Spartans in Madison under coach Bo Ryan.
Michigan State (19-9, 10-5) has won six of the last seven meetings overall, most recently 83-75 in last season’s Big Ten tournament, and could use another victory over the Badgers to pad its postseason resume. The Spartans are 1-4 against the Top 25 and also endured a home loss to Texas Southern on Dec. 20.
They had a four-game winning streak snapped with Thursday’s 96-90 overtime loss to Minnesota, as coach Tom Izzo made another questionable decision not to foul in the closing seconds of regulation up by three.
The Gophers hit a 3-pointer and drew a foul with 2.2 seconds remaining but missed the free throw before hitting 14 of 20 from the line in OT. Izzo also chose not to foul at the end of regulation against then-No. 12 Maryland on Dec. 30 before the Terrapins drained a 3 to tie it.
Michigan State lost that contest 68-66 in double overtime, and Izzo again defended his decision not to foul Thursday.
"I made a choice, I’ll live with it. If guys would do their damn job, we wouldn’t be in that position," Izzo said. "We had a ton of missed free throws by some of our best free throw shooters, and we had a guy or two that just didn’t come to play.
"Maybe this team is not that good and we’re just finding ways to stay in games late."
Denzel Valentine scored 27 points and Travis Trice added 21, but he hit just 6 of 13 free throws. The Spartans are one of the nation’s worst free-throw shooting teams at 63.6 percent.
Michigan State may not have to worry much about free throws in this contest. Wisconsin opponents get to the line an average of 11.6 times per game, fewest in the nation.