East Lansing, MI
A different team faced the Spartans tonight, but it was the same result. The #6 Michigan State Spartans improved their record on the year to 17-2 (8-0) with a 69-55 win over the #13 Maryland Terrapins. It was the Spartans 20th straight Big Ten regular season conference win. Improving their current school record.
Kyle Ahrens returned to action after missing two games, but G Joshua Langford remained out for his 6th straight game missed. True freshman Aaron Henry did not relinquish to Ahrens his starting spot, for his third straight start.
The Spartans were led by Kenny Goins who had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Cassius Winston had 14 points as well as seven rebounds. Aaron Henry poured in 12, Xavier Tillman had 10 and Matt McQuaid was the only other Spartan in double digits with 10 as well.
Tom Izzo said, “Big game. I didn’t think it was the prettiest game. Really impressed with our defense in general. Thought we had a couple guys who slacked for a while and bounced back. To win a game like that without Nick (Ward) playing (well) was… he might as well have been with Ahrens, who played a little bit, and Josh (Langford). He didn’t even get a chance to get into that game. Thought some impressive stats were points in the paint. We still had 36 to their 20. Points off turnovers 14 to 3. Big one is fast break points, 29 to 9. I didn’t think we ran as good; I thought we got tired. Cassius got hurt there in the first half, went down and banged his knee. (Cassius) Had a little lapse there defensively for a while. Give him credit, he sucked it up. Tried to do a better job of giving him some rest. We got him a few minutes, but still not very smooth offensively. I don’t think you’re gonna be with Nick outta there. Come back and out-rebound them. I thought the first half Kenny Goins was our star. Thought Xavier (Tillman) had some nice blocks. I thought we were tentative to shoot the ball and we shot it terribly from three. I thought a lot of times our guards were passing them up and our centers were taking them. We gotta get that straightened out a little bit. Not shooting it as well and not getting Nick even into the game, I think that was a heckuva win. I think Maryland is a very good basketball team. I thought we did a heckuva job on Cowan and did a decent job on Jalen Smith. A couple of those guards started hitting some of those threes late. In general, that’s a very good basketball team that I’m sure Mark (Turgeon) doesn’t feel they played great. I didn’t feel we played great, but we found a way to win. That’s what you’ve gotta do this time of year. A lot of teams getting upset. Our defense saved us.”
Tom Izzo added, “We got something out of Xavier (Tillman), even though he struggled from the three. Something out of (Matt) McQuaid, even though he struggled from the three. I thought Kenny (Goins) was the most solid of our group, and Aaron (Henry). Cassius (Winston) missed a couple shots, but he doesn’t miss many. I thought that driving layup he had was impressive. He did it after his defensive performance. We had a lot of guys that did something, but we’re not shooting the ball within rhythm at all. It seems like early I was really disappointed. Matt passed up some shots, and I knew Kyle (Ahrens) would. Kyle only practiced a day and hopefully a day and a half. We’ll have to figure out how we’ll handle these next couple of days. It’s gonna be hard for him and for Cassius. We got a lot out of a lot of guys.”
Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon said of today, “Michigan State I thought was really good tonight. We let them do what they do well which is run, 29 fast-break points. I thought after the first four minutes we competed on the boards a little bit more but it’s a really good team, and they’ve been really dominate in this building. They can really guard; they can really guard you. They can play straight up on the post which is saying a lot trying to guard Bruno (Fernando), and they did a lot of things well. Tonight’s the first night my team’s looked young. We are young, but it’s the first night we’ve looked young. I think Michigan State had a lot to do with that, and they had some young guys out there too but they’re a terrific team. Starting the second half, I didn’t think we competed the way we needed to, but I thought the last 14 minutes we tried as hard as we could try and that’s all I can ask so we’ll learn and try to get better.”
The Spartans shot 46% from the field including 23% from the three. The Spartans shot a terrible 64% from the free throw line and had 21 assists on 28 baskets.
The Spartans led the battle of the boards 40-38. Disappointingly, the Spartans had only nine turnovers.
Izzo played 11 players including all five of the five freshmen. Aaron Henry the true freshman guard played 26 minutes and had the aforementioned 12 points, six rebounds and four assists in his third career and straight start.
Tom Izzo and Cassius Winston had a long embrace after the game. I asked Izzo about and he said, “Let’s face it, a lot of people give me crap about how you handle Cassius, that I’m too hard on Cassius. I’m not too hard on Cassius. He’s got a lot to give. Every week right now, this year, I’ve seen him get better and better and better. I’m gonna keep pushing; he’s gonna keep working. When I see a guy that I know is tired and I know is a little hurt do a couple things. We said we’ve gotta push the ball a little more, he had three great defensive stands and two good pushes. Damn right he deserves a hug. Maybe a kiss next time. It was good.”
Turgeon added, “If we could have got our defense set, I thought our game plan was good, but Nick (Ward) didn’t play a lot which really helped us. Kept us out of foul trouble I think because he puts such foul pressure on you. Now we wanted their four man to beat us and they subbed 15 in, we don’t know his name I apologize (Kither). He made two buckets right before half and really changed the game and then Goins made a few in the second half, made him hard to guard but your whole concentration is Ward and Cassius Winston and close after that is McQuaid because the way he’s playing, he’s really playing well. You’ve just got to pick your poison and do the best you can, but I think our half-court defense was good enough it’s just the other parts of the game wasn’t.”
The Spartans return to Big Ten action against Iowa on Thursday at 7:00 at the historic Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The game is on FS1.
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