No matter how many times freshman guard Brad Davison clapped his hands on defense, let out fist pumps to the crowd on offense or hit highly contested jumpers, No. 2 Michigan State (16-2 Big Ten, 28-3 overall) refused to go away.
Wisconsin’s (7-11, 14-16) 68-63 loss on Senior Day marked yet another time the Badgers have hung with some of its top opponents but failed to close the deal. Davison finished with a career-high 30 points, but the Spartans’ flurry of weapons proved too much to overcome as UW, itching for its second major upset in as many weeks, came up just short.
In front of a crowd seemingly anxious for good fortune, Wisconsin failed to grab the lead in the game’s first 20 minutes. After MSU jumped out to a quick 8-0 cushion, the Badgers were in a constant game of catch-up. A layup by redshirt sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl tied the game at 11 with 12:41 to go in the half, but a quick 4-0 spurt helped Michigan State regain the advantage, which it held for the remaining 12-plus minutes.
Coming out of the locker room down 34-27, Wisconsin slowly inched its way closer to the Spartans. Davison hit a left-handed layup and his ensuing free throw just over five minutes into the period to cut MSU’s lead to two points.
Davison would tie the game at 36 on a pair of technical foul free throws just over a minute later, but, yet again, Wisconsin would fail to take the lead.
With 13:36 to play, after briefly heading to the locker room with a left arm injury, Davison returned the floor, bringing the Kohl Center crowd to its feet. A series of jumpers by Davison kept the energy high and the score close as the game was again tied with 11:34 to play.
This time, just over 90 seconds later, redshirt junior Happ would give Wisconsin its first lead of the contest after a right-handed jump hook fell through the cup. MSU's Ward would tie the game at 47 apiece with 7:49 to go, setting up yet another tight finish down the stretch.
A jumper by Michigan State’s Miles Bridges — only his second field goal of the game to that point — gave the Spartans a three-point cushion, but UW remained within arms reach.
However, as time dwindled down, an 11-2 MSU run carved out a seven-point lead for the visitors.
Another pair of Davison free throws, this time with 3:48 to go, sliced the Spartans’ lead to only two, but on the very next possession, Bridges nailed a hook-shot in the lane to double MSU’s advantage. With 1:32 to go, Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. knocked down two free throws to stretch its lead to six.
Jackson Jr. finished with 11, but it was Spartan guard Cassius Winston who led the way with 20 points.
Happ added 13 points for the Badgers, but it was Wisconsin’s freshman guard who did most of the creating.
As the final buzzer sounded, Davison found Happ near the left wing, the spot of Davison's final shot attempt. The duo put their arms around each other and walked to the handshake line. Yet again, the Badgers ran out of time — a valiant effort undertaken, but another loss received.