All-Big Ten Semifinals Team
Guard: Cassius Winston
Guard: Zavier Simpson
Forward: Isaiah Livers
Forward: Kenny Goins
Forward: Ethan Happ
Wisconsin Badgers 55 vs Michigan State Spartans 67
We got to see a rematch of the 2015 Big Ten Tournament Championship game, the last time the event took place in Chicago. Kenny Goins and Ethan Happ were both on those teams as redshirts. Goins went for a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds going 4-7 from deep while Happ dropped 20 points and collected 6 rebounds. The Spartans ran ahead right off the bat to comfortably advance to the 2019 Big Ten Tournament Championship game behind some hot early shooting. Cassius Winston was dialed in as well and the Spartan starters carried the load in this one.
Wisconsin must not have adjusted well to the Spalding ball in use at the tournament. A team stocked with 40% three point shooters went a combined 2-19 from downtown, and most of those were good looks. Wisconsin attempted to shift their focus to attacking the rim but saw shot after shot rim out resulting in a 35.3% field goal shooting afternoon. Wisconsin defended well but scoring is still the name of the game.
Minnesota Golden Gophers 49 vs Michigan Wolverines 76
We got to see every player on Michigan’s bench play for the second consecutive night. Only one starter played more than 27 minutes (Jordan Poole played 32) and the bench saw a combined 66 minutes of court time. Freshman guard Adrien Nunez who is always jumping around on the bench taking pride in the energy he brings acknowledged that, “it’s been cool that I’ve been able to get in both games” of his first Big Ten Tournament. The four freshman: Nunez, David DeJulius, Colin Castleton, and Brandon Johns, all shared the court together which is something they noted that they don’t usually get to do even in practice. Eli Brooks ran the offense for much of the second half and credited the confidence the coaches have instilled in him for an aggressiveness that allowed him to “feel good being in position to make plays”. Brooks played 15 minutes scoring on a pair of strong drives to the basket and converting a free throw for 5 points while hauling down 6 rebounds. Brooks again commented on his other significant stat in the locker room after the game: 6 Gatorade chews he ate pregame consistent with the theme of last night. Left-handed walk-on guard Luke Wilson grew up a Michigan fan dreaming of playing in the tournament he watched, “It was really awesome to get on the court and know the whole team was behind me and encouraging me to shoot it, they’re the ones that got me on the court in the first place.” Wilson also offered insight into what lied ahead against Michigan State. Wilson stated, “We know what’s ahead of us, we have an amazing opportunity to win a championship. We have to bring focus and intensity and play and we gotta play our game tomorrow which we didn’t do the first two times against Michigan State. We believe that if we play our game we can win the championship.”
The stat of the night continues to revolve around the ball movement as the Wolverines topped 20 assists for the second consecutive game. Michigan had 21 assists on 32 made field goals and Zavier Simpson dished out 9 of those. Simpson now has 20 assists and 1 turnover in two games against NCAA Tournament level competition in Chicago. Brooks commented on the Wolverine ball movement saying, “We’re seeing the ball go in and we’re playing for each other. To win you have to share the ball.” Isaiah Livers also earns a spot on the All-Big Ten Tournament Semifinals Team with 21 points (8-10 FG, 4-6 3 FG) in 23 minutes off the bench.
Setting the Stage:
Tomorrow afternoon will be the third game between the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans this season. Michigan State won in Ann Arbor 77-70 and in East Lansing 75-63 thanks to dominant second half stretched in both games. Michigan defeated Michigan State in last year’s Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden 75-64 en-route to their second consecutive Big Ten Tournament Championship. Michigan State defeated Michigan in the 2014 Big Ten Tournament Championship game 69-55. Michigan has won a record 10 straight Big Ten Tournament games.