ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
INDIANAPOLIS -- Michigan State's Draymond Green didn't let go of the disappointment from last week's loss to Ohio State.
Instead, he used it as motivation for the Big Ten tournament.
Green finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds, and Austin Thornton scored all 12 of his points on 3-pointers Saturday, leading No. 8 Michigan State past No. 14 Wisconsin 65-52 and into its first conference title game since 2000.
"It's just another opportunity for us. We had two chances to win the Big Ten outright, we didn't do it," Green said. "You can't really make up for it, but it's an opportunity to feel better about it if we get this conference tournament championship."
After finishing the regular season with consecutive losses at Indiana and at home against the Buckeyes, defeats that might have cost Michigan State (26-7) a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, MSU intends to take full advantage of a third opportunity to prove it's the Big Ten's best.
The Spartans next chance comes Sunday against No. 7 Ohio State. The Spartans went 1-1 against the Buckeyes and finished in a three-way tie with them and Michigan atop the regular-season standings.
To the Spartans, this is not just another game -- they intend to finish the job.
Whether it matters in the NCAA selection committee's ultimate decision-making process is still up for debate. A top seed might be tough to come by. But sharing titles isn't good enough anymore for seniors like Green and Thornton.
Green has now recorded double-doubles in both of the Spartans double-digit tourney wins, and the Spartans followed two different blueprints to get the same outcome. They took control early against Iowa and pulled away for a 92-75 victory.
On Saturday, it was defense that sparked Michigan State's first-half comeback and kept Wisconsin at arm's length.
Green had five assists and three blocks. He moved into second place on the school's career rebounding list with 1,046, 10 more than Johnny Green.
Badgers coach Bo Ryan said Wisconsin's problems were mostly self-inflicted.
"We didn't do what we talked about in the scouting report as a unit, so we paid," Ryan said.
The Badgers were led by Jordan Taylor with 19 points and Ryan Evans with 18 but shot just 34.7 percent from the field.
Initially, things didn't go well for the Spartans, who trailed 20-9 midway through the first half.
After coach Tom Izzo called a time-out, Green and Thornton changed the whole complexion.
The combination of suffocating defense, Green's rebounding, and Thornton's 3s quickly got Michigan State back in the game, and when Derrick Nix ended a 13-0 run with a 7-foot hook shot, the Spartans finally had their first lead at 22-20 with 6:04 left in the half.