Spartans beat Michigan for Big Ten title
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Cassius Winston struggled to make shots for more than a half and his rivals took advantage, controlling a game with a share of the Big Ten title at stake.
When Winston started to finally get shots to drop, though, he took over and there wasn’t much anyone could do about it.
Winston made five straight baskets in the second half to lead a stunning surge and finished with 23 points and seven assists, lifting No. 9 Michigan State to a 75-63 victory over No. 7 Michigan on Saturday night.
The Spartans (25-6, 16-4 Big Ten) earned a share of the Big Ten title and top seeding in next week’s conference tournament.
“It meant the world after all we’ve been through to come out on top,” Winston said.
The crafty, junior point guard has been leading a team missing two of its best players, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford, due to injuries.
The Wolverines (26-5, 15-5) will be seeded third in Chicago after falling to third place behind their rivals and No. 11 Purdue.
“We’ll take the lessons we learned from this game, apply them to the Big Ten tournament so that we can win that again,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “If we can’t, we’ll apply it to the NCAA Tournament.”
Winston was 1 of 8 before making five straight shots in the second half, including a 3-pointer to give Michigan State its first lead midway through the second half.
“Michigan was bothering him in the first half,” coach Tom Izzo said.
The Spartans pulled away to win a game by double digits after Michigan was in control for more than 20 minutes.
Winston made a layup with 5:58 left to cap a 25-4 run.
“We imploded,” Beilein said.
Michigan also failed to slow down Winston nearly two weeks ago when he had 27 points and eight assists in Michigan State’s 77-70 win .
In the rematch, Winston flipped a game that wasn’t going the home team’s way.
“It’s just a different dynamic when he’s on the court,” Michigan guard Jordan Poole said.
The Spartans trailed by six at halftime and by eight points early in the second half after Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis made a 3-pointer. The Big Ten freshman of the year candidate fouled out with 20 points.
“Some of the whistles I felt like didn’t go our way, and some I disagreed with, but that’s basketball,” Brazdeikis said. “We let our tempers get to us a little bit.”
Poole scored just five of his 15 points in the second half for the Wolverines, who made just 40 percent of their shots.
Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman scored 17 points and blocked five shots. Kenny Goins had nine points and 16 rebounds while fellow senior Matt McQuaid scored nine points and played well defensively in their final home game at Breslin Center, where they kissed the school’s logo at midcourt just have seniors have since Shawn Respert did in 1995.
“Shawn started a tradition that now is like no other,” Izzo said. “For him and Smitty (Steve Smith) and those guys to come back was cool.”
Michigan: Charles Matthews, who averages 12.8 points, missed his third straight game with an ankle injury.
“I was hoping he would be back,” Beilein said. “He just couldn’t go. He just doesn’t feel right.”
If the shooting guard can use the rest to be ready for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament, he can give the Wolverines a boost at both ends of the court.
Beilein, though, refused to lament the loss of Matthews because Michigan State is missing Ward along with Langford.
“It’s not an excuse,” he said. “They could’ve had Ward in there.”
Michigan State: Izzo won his ninth Big Ten regular-season title despite missing two of his best players, Ward and Langford, due to injuries. Ward might be able to play in the conference tournament and likely can contribute a little at least in the NCAA Tournament.
Izzo pulled within two of matching former Indiana coach Bob Knight for the Big Ten record with 11 titles.
FACES IN THE CROWD
A slew of former Spartans attended the game — including Smith, Shawn Respert and Mateen Cleaves — and they were all raving about Winston.
“This is point guard heaven — Michigan State,” said Cleaves, who led the school to a second national title in 2000 after Magic Johnson won its first in 1979. “The legacy continues. We are in good hands.”
Michigan: The third-seeded team in the Big Ten tournament will play the final game of the conference quarterfinals Friday night.
Michigan State: The first-seeded team will open the conference tournament quarterfinals Friday.