Underestimate Tom Izzo and Michigan State at your peril.
The Spartans are plenty dangerous — even when they’re short-handed and playing on the road against a highly ranked rival.
Cassius Winston had 27 points and eight assists, and 10th-ranked Michigan State moved into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a 77-70 victory over No. 7 Michigan on Sunday.
Kenny Goins had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Xavier Tillman added 14 points for the Spartans, who snapped Michigan’s 22-game winning streak at Crisler Center despite being without two of their top three scorers.
“I don’t need to be an underdog anymore — those days are over,” said Izzo, who moved within three victories of 600 as Michigan State’s coach. “I don’t need to have anybody feel sorry for us. Those days are over. Doesn’t matter, nobody cares — put a jersey on a kid and he goes.”
Joshua Langford is out for the season, and Nick Ward is recovering from a broken hand, but Goins and Tillman produced in Ward’s absence.
Michigan (24-4, 13-4) led by six early in the second half, but that advantage was short-lived. Down 51-45, the Spartans (23-5, 14-3) outscored Michigan 21-7 to take control. The Wolverines shot 2 for 14 from 3-point range in the second half.
Michigan won three straight games in this series, including two last year when Zavier Simpson more than held his own against Winston in the matchup of point guards.
Winston was terrific Sunday, though, keeping his team afloat early in the second half and leading a 77-point effort against one of the best defensive teams in the country. Michigan State had only six turnovers, negating an area that figured to be a Michigan advantage.
“I just led the guys and made big plays down the stretch, but this was a team win,” Winston said. “Everybody stepped up. Kenny had a big game. (Matt) McQuaid made some big shots. This is really a team win and that’s the best part.”
Simpson led Michigan with 19 points. Both he and Winston played the full 40 minutes.
“They were much better than us in just about everything,” Wolverines coach John Beilein said. “Offense, defense, got to the foul line more. First half was huge where we allowed five 3s. Second half was much better defense by us, but … we’re going to have to play better than that.”
The Spartans are now alone atop the Big Ten after entering the game in a first-place tie with Michigan and No. 15 Purdue. Michigan State hosts Michigan in a rematch March 9.
Michigan State: It had to be one of Michigan State’s most satisfying wins of the past few seasons. Playing short-handed in a tough environment, the Spartans looked confident on offense from the start and didn’t wilt after Michigan increased the intensity on defense. Goins and Tillman were ready for this challenge, combining for 30 points and 16 rebounds.
“They’re very good players,” Michigan center Jon Teske said. “They stepped up. Even without (Langford and Ward), they’re still a very, very good team, talented team.”
Michigan: The Wolverines now face an uphill climb to win the Big Ten. In addition to the road game against Michigan State, Michigan still has to play at Maryland as well. The way the Wolverines have played defense this season, it was a surprise that 70 points wasn’t enough to win.
Michigan State didn’t shoot well from 3-point range either, going 0 for 8 in the second half and 5 of 20 for the game. But the Spartans finished 19 of 28 from inside the arc, with Winston doing plenty of damage.
“The guy that has been scrutinized the most by me and you, Cassius Winston, was unbelievable,” Izzo said. “We just kept the ball in his hands. What makes a guy great, he made other players better. He made some great passes inside. He made some great passes outside.”
Michigan didn’t get to play Michigan State at home last season, and Wolverines fans were ready this time. Some fans near the court said they’d arrived around midnight and waited about seven hours, receiving bracelets that helped them get such a coveted spot.
Michigan was honoring its national championship team from 1989, but this year’s Wolverines were outplayed in the second half.
The Spartans will almost surely move ahead of the Wolverines in the next poll.
Michigan State: The Spartans have several days off before playing at Indiana on Saturday.
Michigan: The Wolverines play their home finale Thursday night against Nebraska.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.