for this game

Flowers steps up as Wisconsin rallies past Michigan St.

Mar 15, 2008 - 11:32 PM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- It may not have been one of the greatest games for Michael Flowers, but the senior made all the right plays at the end.

Flowers grabbed a steal and scored a layup with 27 seconds left as sixth-ranked Wisconsin rallied for a 65-63 victory over No. 19 Michigan State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament on Saturday.

Despite finishing with just four points, Flowers made two of the biggest plays in the contest for the top-seeded Badgers, who lost second-leading scorer Trevon Hughes with an apparent ankle injury midway through the second half.

Despite the loss of Hughes, Wisconsin (28-4) ended up outscoring Michigan State, 30-18, over the final 12 1/2 minutes of the game, sealing its fourth appearance in the championship game in the last five years. The Badgers' opponent will be either Minnesota or Illinois.

Taking advantage of the Spartans' focus on stopping their post play, the Badgers tied the contest at 61-61 on a layup by Joe Krabbenhoft off a cut down the middle of the lane.

Freshman Kalin Lucas answered with a jumper for Michigan State, but two free throws by Marcus Landry knotted the contest at 63-63 with 1:41 to go.

After both teams had an empty possession, the Spartans took a timeout to set up a play. However, Flowers knew what Michigan State had planned, staying with sharpshooter Drew Neitzel when Lucas drove the lane.

With his path to the basket blocked, Lucas tried to kick out to Neitzel, but Flowers deflected the pass into the open court, raced to get the ball and scored the go-ahead layup.

"I knew that toward the end of the game, with a player like Drew Neitzel, that they were looking for him, and I just wanted to cover him and make sure that if he doesn't have the ball, he can't score," Flowers said. "I was over-pressuring him and the pass came. I tipped it and just ran as fast as I could for the layup."

Still with a chance to answer, the Spartans took another timeout to form a plan of attack. Yet, Flowers spoiled it again, fighting through double screens to deny the ball to Neitzel on the right wing and force Lucas to take an ill-advised drive to the basket that came up short.

"I think in the second half, towards the end, I did a really good job, way better than I did in the first half of keeping the ball out of his (Neitzel's) hands, and that kind of disrupted the flow of their offense," Flowers said.

An 89 percent free-throw shooter, Jason Bohannon was fouled by Michigan State with 7.6 seconds left. Surprisingly, he missed the two attempts, enabling the Spartans for a final shot.

Neitzel - who finished with four 3-pointers and 26 points - had a good look, but his shot from the arc on the left wing was off the mark.

Brian Butch scored 19 points and Landry added 18 for Wisconsin, which converted 26-of-37 free throws in beating Michigan State for the second time this season.

Lucas finished with 18 points for the Spartans (25-8), who were whistled for 30 fouls and had four players - including leading scorer Raymar Morgan - foul out.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said that Michigan State's high foul total was due to their constant approach of getting the ball inside.

"We're going to touch the post," he said. "We're going to try to get something going to the rim. And that's how you get fouled."

In a very physical game, the Badgers also had their share of fouls, committing 19.

"With us, it doesn't really change what we do," Butch said regarding the way the game was called. "We have rules that coach puts in place. We just try to play tough defense and not foul and not put ourselves into positions to foul. When we foul, it's pretty obvious because of what we usually do and how we usually play defense."

Despite the rising foul issues, Michigan State took a 39-29 lead when Goran Suton capped a 9-0 run with a jumper with 15:27 left in the second half.

The Spartans still had a double-digit lead at 45-35 when Lucas took advantage of Hughes falling down in transition to hit a wide-open 3-pointer. Play immediately was stopped after the basket, as Hughes was helped from the floor and never returned.

"Physically our trainer will make (a) decision," Ryan said about the status of Hughes. "So we shall see."

However, the loss of Hughes - who entered the game averaging 11.6 points - would not deflate the Badgers, who chipped away at the deficit before going on a 13-2 run to close within 55-54 with 4:34 left.

"We were down by 10, and we just talked about what it's going to take to come back on the defensive end," Butch said. "That's how we got back into it, was that we really just concentrated on the defense."

Butch had six points during the burst, getting fouled on a 3-point attempt with 6:06 left and making all three free throws while capping the run with his second basket from the arc.

Krabbenhoft added 11 points and 10 rebounds for Wisconsin, which finished with a 36-31 advantage on the boards.

Plagued by his foul issues, Morgan ended up with seven points - his fourth single-digit performance in six games - and seven rebounds.