4:05 PM ET, March 13, 2004
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Devin Harris didn't let his team's poor shooting affect him.He scored 21 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers to start a late rally, and No. 10 Wisconsin beat Michigan State 68-66 Saturday to advance to the Big Ten championship game.When the buzzer sound, a euphoric Harris dived to the floor in front of the Badgers bench, and his teammates piled on top of him in celebration."Some of the shots were toward the end of the shot clock, and I came off the screen, trying to make some thing happen," said Harris, the Big Ten's Player of the Year. "Toward the end of the game, if I get open looks, I'm going to take it, but I'm not going to force anything."The Spartans had a chance to tie it after Wisconsin's Zach Morley missed the second of two free throws that could have sealed the game. However, Maurice Ager's runner in the lane caromed off the front of the rim as time expired."I don't think I could have gotten a better look," Ager said. "It just came out. Every time I shoot the ball, I feel it can go it. It just didn't work out that way."Wisconsin (23-6) will play No. 12 Illinois, the defending tournament and regular-season champion, on Sunday for an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. The championship will pit the tournament's top two seeds, and Wisconsin will make its first appearance in the title game.The Illini have won 12 straight since losing to the Badgers 76-56 on Jan. 24 in Madison, Wis."They're definitely playing real well now," Wisconsin's Mike Wilkinson said. "When they're the toughest, all five guys are scoring. It should be a fun game, definitely a challenge."Michigan State, meanwhile, had hoped to avenge a 68-64 loss to Wisconsin at home that would have given the Spartans a share of the Big Ten title. Instead, they lost to Badgers for the fifth straight time."It was definitely a big game for us," Michigan State guard Calvin Hill said. "It was a game we had a chance to advance to the championship. That was our goal."Wilkinson had 20 points and helped set the tempo inside for the Badgers, who shot 33 percent in the first half but improved to 64 percent in the second. He also grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots to anchor a physical interior defense that forced Michigan State outside."Where have you seen in a game both teams have 12 assists and five turnovers with two physical teams?" Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. "Each possession was a war. I can't wait to look at this on tape."The Spartans (18-11), which led the Big Ten in field-goal percentage, 3-point field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and scoring offense, shot 54.5 percent for the game and hit 4-of-6 3-pointers in the first half, but managed only one more the rest of the game."I feel worse than my players," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "They did everything you could do to win a basket ball game. Give credit to Devin Harris. He made some shots I'm not even sure I'd take. But he's done it all year."Paul Davis led Michigan State with 16 points and five rebounds, and Shannon Brown added 15.Michigan State led 35-30 at the break, but Wisconsin came back with 10-0 run to take a 50-46 lead with 10:58 left.Ager hit a 3-pointer with 5:28 left to give Michigan State a 58-57 lead. The teams traded baskets until Harris hit a 3 with 1:17 left to give Wisconsin a 65-64 lead.Ager came right back with a basket of his own, but Wilkinson hit two free throws to put the Badgers on top for good."It was another tough loss," Izzo said. "But if failure builds character, I'm going to have some character before the season's over."
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