CHICAGO (AP) — Cassius Winston scored 21 points and Kenny Goins keyed Michigan State’s fast start, helping the sixth-ranked Spartans beat No. 19 Wisconsin 67-55 in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals on Saturday.
Goins, Aaron Henry and Xavier Tillman also led a dominant rebounding effort as Michigan State earned its seventh consecutive win in its series against Wisconsin. Goins finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots, and Henry grabbed a career-high 11 boards to power the Spartans to a 44-30 advantage on the glass.
Winston shook out his left foot a bit after he accidentally kicked Wisconsin guard Brad Davison with about 4 minutes left in the first half. But the Big Ten Player of the Year stayed in the game and showed no sign of trouble while going 9 for 17 from the field and passing for six assists.
The Spartans (27-6) earned their ninth win in 10 games and will go for their sixth Big Ten tourney title on Sunday against the winner of the Minnesota-Michigan semifinal.
Wisconsin star Ethan Happ bounced back nicely from a shaky performance in the quarterfinals against Nebraska, finishing with 20 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots. Kobe King had 13 points for the low-scoring Badgers.
Nate Reuvers, who had 14 points in the victory over the Cornhuskers, was 0 for 7 from the field and failed to score. D’Mitrik Trice had seven points on 3-for-10 shooting before fouling out with about a minute left.
The Badgers (23-10) got off to a slow start and didn’t recover.
The 6-foot-7 Goins swished his first three 3-point attempts in the first 6 minutes of the game. Tillman made a foul shot and then converted a three-point play to give the Spartans a 27-10 lead with 7:42 left in the first half.
Wisconsin closed to 35-27 at the break, helped by a missed dunk by Goins in the final seconds. The Badgers challenged the Spartans at a few points down the stretch, but Winston and Goins had an answer every time.
After Happ’s driving layup got Wisconsin within seven early in the second half, Goins found Tillman under the basket for a big jam. The Badgers closed to 47-41 on Khalil Iverson’s three-point play before Winston converted a layup and Goins rattled home a 3-pointer to help run the lead back out to nine with 9:12 to go.
Wisconsin: Happ looked like his usual self, but the Badgers shot just 35 percent from the field. They also managed just three fast-break points.
Michigan State: Typical Spartans in March. Tillman’s performance likely delighted coach Tom Izzo. He finished with 17 points and seven rebounds.
Wisconsin: Heads home to figure out where it’s going for the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan State: An opportunity to strengthen its case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap