No. 2 Michigan State, No. 15 Michigan rarely meet in Big Ten Tournament (Mar 02, 2018)

March 2, 2018

NEW YORK -- No. 2 Michigan State will face No. 15 Michigan for just the second time in the 21-year history of the Big Ten Tournament when they square off in the semifinals on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

The Spartans (29-3) defeated the Wolverines 69-55 in the only previous meeting in the 2014 Big Ten Tournament championship game.

"The rivalry is the rivalry," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said, "but I learned a long time ago that if you get caught up in that ... Do I want another chance at them (Michigan)? Yes."

Top-seeded Michigan State, winners of three of the last six tournaments, advanced to the semifinals by turning back Wisconsin 63-60.

Michigan (26-7), seeded fifth, cruised past Nebraska 77-58 for its seventh straight win.

The Wolverines gave up just one basket from the floor during a 13:32 stretch of the first half, holding Nebraska to 1-of-20 shooting during that span. The Cornhuskers wound up shooting just 30 percent (16 of 53).

"Our defense was not good, it was great," Michigan coach John Beilein said.

Michigan won the only regular-season meeting this year with the Spartans, an 82-72 decision on Jan. 13 in Ann Arbor.

"Michigan State got a tremendous ball screen offense," Beilein said. "(Michigan State coach) Tom (Izzo) has a tremendous system of things countering off each other unless they've changed since the last time we played them.

"But one of the big things is you've got to be able to guard the ball screen. Moe (Wagner) has been really exceptional at that. That was not his strength for two years. He's really impacting people and getting back to his man.

"So it's going to be a challenge again. But we're better defensively than we were back then. But they (Michigan State) are probably better offensively. So who knows what's going to happen?"

Wagner posted the first double-double of the tournament with 20 points and 13 rebounds in the win over Nebraska. He fouled out of the second-round overtime win over Iowa but started strong Friday, scoring his team's first eight points.

"I can't start the first half with a dumb foul on the ball screen," Wagner said. "I just can't do that. And obviously that was a topic in team meetings in the last 24 hours. I feel a certain responsibility to help my team out and not do that dumb stuff."

The Spartans are also a tough defensive squad. Izzo's team is tops in the country in field goal percentage defense (36 percent), second in scoring margin ( 17), No. 1 in in blocked shots per game (7.6) and second in rebounding margin ( 10.7).

Jaren Jackson was named as the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year.

Sophomore guard-forward Miles Bridges is one of only three players in the country averaging at least 16.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.9 blocked shots.

"We had to get some first-game jitters out of the way," Bridges said of the nip-and-tuck win over Wisconsin. "But I feel once we got that out of the way we got comfortable and we got going."

Michigan State is 29-15 in the Big Ten Tournament, winning it in 1999, 2000, 2012, 2014 and 2016.



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