The last time Michigan State beat Wisconsin at least three times in one season, it went on to win the national championship.
The eighth-ranked Spartans look to accomplish the feat again when they face the No. 14 Badgers in a Big Ten tournament semifinal Saturday in Indianapolis.
Michigan State (25-7), the top seed after sharing the regular-season conference title with Ohio State and Michigan, advanced with a 92-75 win over Iowa on Friday behind 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists from Big Ten player of the year Draymond Green.
The Spartans failed to claim an outright conference title after dropping their last two games, but they began the postseason with a solid effort.
"I forgot that we had two losses in a row. It's a brand new season," Green said. "I just completely forgot about it, knowing that we were 0-0. We're 1-0 now and one step closer."
Coach Tom Izzo said the defense needs to improve, though. Michigan State is allowing an average of 72.3 points over its last three games after giving up 57.8 per game before that.
"You have to be able to defend and rebound in this tournament because you don't have many 90-point games in the NCAA tournament or this kind of tournament," Izzo said.
Neither team scored more than 61 points in any meeting as the Spartans beat the Badgers four times during the 1999-2000 season. Michigan State won the last matchup 53-41 in the Final Four en route to the national title.
This season marked the first time the Spartans swept a regular-season series of at least two games versus Wisconsin since 2001, winning a controversial overtime contest 63-60 in Madison on Jan. 3 before beating the Badgers 69-55 on Feb. 16.
Wisconsin (24-8) had one of its worst defensive performances in the second meeting, allowing Michigan State to shoot 52.2 percent - a season high for an opponent.
The fourth-seeded Badgers lead the nation allowing only 52.5 points per game and will look for a better effort this time around against the Spartans after beating No. 15 Indiana 79-71 in the quarterfinals Friday.
Senior Rob Wilson, a little-used reserve for much of his career who had been averaging 3.1 points this season, hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 30 points, helping Bo Ryan become Wisconsin's all-time winningest coach with his 266th victory at the school.
"I think all the players, I think all the teams that we've had have worked so hard and I just happened to be the guy roaming the sidelines," Ryan said.
Badgers star Jordan Taylor is averaging 21.8 points in five games as a starter versus Michigan State, but he was 3 of 13 with just 13 points in the last meeting. He also struggled Friday, shooting 3 of 12 and finishing with 12 points while dealing with foul trouble, but he was thrilled to see Wilson's surprisingly stellar performance.
Wilson had been contributing a bit more than usual lately, averaging 8.0 points in the last four regular-season games.
"When a teammate is down, you gotta pick him up, and I think everybody really buys into that," Taylor said. "And as far as being a better team, what (Wilson's) doing now, I think we're (infinitely) better."
Wisconsin may have to do better against Green, who led the Big Ten with 17 double-doubles in the regular season. He had 18 points and 14 rebounds in the first meeting and finished with 20 points and 10 boards in the second.
The Badgers have won the last three conference tournament meetings, the most recent a 65-63 victory in the 2008 semifinals en route to their last title.
- Michigan State
- Ohio State