No. 2 Michigan State puts streak on line against Wisconsin

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Michigan State has the nation's longest active Division I winning streak. Coach Tom Izzo still thinks his team has not peaked heading into the Big Ten tournament.

The No. 2 Spartans won the regular-season title outright by finishing it with 12 consecutive victories. They wound up with a school-record 28 regular-season wins but Izzo felt his club was a little sharper in early January.

That was before all the controversies regarding alleged misconduct by past players and coaches, and then an FBI probe in which allegations were made against star player Miles Bridges and his family.

"There's been some things that have been tough on them," said Izzo, who vowed that he and his team would no longer answer non-basketball questions.

Michigan State (28-3) will face ninth-seeded Wisconsin (15-17) on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. The Badgers edged Maryland 59-54 on Thursday.

The NCAA determined that family members of Bridges had accepted $40 for dinner with an agent. Bridges was required to pay that amount to a charity of his choice and was reinstated for the final regular-season game.

Bridges, an All-Big Ten first-team selection, has averaged just 10.5 points on 25.6 percent shooting over the past four games. But his teammates, particularly point guard Cassius Winston, have picked up the slack.

Winston is averaging 14.2 points and 6.4 assists while making 61.5 percent of his 3-point tries over the past five games.

Izzo is surprised by Winston's perimeter prowess.

"Last summer he put in his time and I think he made some tremendous improvements," Izzo said. "Cassius has done it the old-fashioned way. He's worked it, he's earned it, but at same time he must have been a better shooter (than Izzo realized). You don't just become a great shooter and he is shooting the ball real well."

Michigan State (28-3) has won the tournament five times but only twice as the top seed. Its last tournament championship came two years ago.

"There hasn't been many teams who have won the regular season outright and the conference tournament and that's our goal," Izzo said.

The Spartans won both meetings this season with the Badgers, including a 68-63 road triumph in the regular-season finale. Bridges scored 24 points in the first meeting in East Lansing, a 76-61 victory in January.

"We just played these guys and we went toe-to-toe with them, punch for punch," Badgers guard Khalil Iverson said. "I personally figure we just have to string together an entire game for 40 minutes and just staying toe-to-toe with them like we did last game. I know we'll be ready for them."

Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said it will be easier to prepare for the Spartans after facing them five days ago. But that doesn't make the task any easier.

"It's fresh in everybody's mind. Don't have to dig back through previous games," he said. "But that game was Sunday and (Friday's) will be a different game. They're a terrific team. They're two-deep at every position. Very talented. Obviously been playing really well. So we know we'll have to play really, really well."

Wisconsin will have some momentum after making clutch plays against the Terrapins. The Badgers outscored Maryland 6-1 in the final 28 seconds after the score had been tied.