Senior Day may be bittersweet for some players, but for Frank Kaminsky it was all business…and business was good. He went to work early and often and the Badgers benefited to the tune of a deceiving 68-61 victory.
Deceiving because Wisconsin led by as man as 20 points and it took most of the last few minutes of the game for Michigan State to make it a game on the scoreboard.
As for Kaminsky, he racked up the second-highest point total of his career, pouring in 31 points on 11 of 17 shooting. He also added eight rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals.
Kaminskyâ€™s effort led the Badgers to clinching at least a share of their first Big Ten championship since the 2007-08 season. With it being Senior Day the four players saying goodbye to the Kohl Center made it a memorable exit.
“To go out on Senior Day and win the Big Ten title, is unbelievable,” said Kaminsky following the win. “I know Josh (Gasser), Duje (Dukan), Traevon (Jackson) and I have talked about all four of our years and Joshâ€™s 16 years. Itâ€™s just an unbelievable feeling to do it in front of our fans, families and friends.”
It also was the strangest and easiest seven-point win in recent Badger lore.
.@pshackto Most dominant 7-pt #badgers win I can remember.
— Phil Mitten (@hoopsmarinara) March 1, 2015
The first half was all about the big men, as Kaminsky had 18 of his XX points, while sophomore Nigel Hayes added 10 points to the effort. Wisconsin ended the first half up 11 points, 36-25, thanks to the combined efforts down low.
However, the big story was Michigan Stateâ€™s inability to stop Kaminsky from doing whatever he wanted to do in the first half. Kaminsky was 7 of 9 from the field in the first half, including a perfect 2-2 from three-point range. He also added five of his eight rebounds and had the Badgersâ€™ only blocks in the first half alone.
Kaminsky also helped lead a massive effort down low, as Wisconsin did most of its damage in the paint during the first half. UW had a 24-6 advantage in points in the paint during the first half alone.
Wisconsinâ€™s defense also came along for the Senior Day party, with UW holding Michigan State to 41.7 percent shooting from the field in the first half.
However, Michigan State was able to keep things closer than it felt thanks to a 9 of 17 effort from beyond the arc in the game.
Things didnâ€™t change much after the half either, as the Badgers extended their lead even further and were up 20 points with 15 minutes to go in the second half. Kaminsky had a big role in that, as did junior Sam Dekker
Michigan State didnâ€™t give up though, pushing UW within a dozen points during the last 10 minutes of the second half.
Wisconsin didnâ€™t tank under the pressure though and maintained a healthy enough lead that Michigan Stateâ€™s eventual run was way too little, way too late to make a complete game of it.
The win and Big Ten title is far from the end of things for this Badgers team though, something senior guard Josh Gasser made very clear after the game.
“Last year was heartbreaking what we went through (losing to Kentucky in the Final Four),” Gasser said. “We want to get back to that point and more. We have a veteran group so we donâ€™t need to talk about how much that would mean. We all know individually and as a team what we want so weâ€™ll rest today and tomorrow and then weâ€™ll go back to work.”