#6 Michigan State Spartans Drop the Wisconsin Badgers to Advance to the FInals at the Big Ten Tournament
The #6 Michigan State Spartans saw their record on the year improve to 27-6 with a 77-70 win over the Wisconsin Badgers.
Spartan Hall of Fame head coach Tom Izzo said of the contest, “You know, we’ve been pretty, not as gritty. I mean, we’re gritty, but we’re not like smash-mouth tough like some of those old teams. But we do it in a different way, and yet it’s — you know, I thought the way we started out, we were upset with the way we started yesterday, as everybody knows, and the first 10 minutes were great and then we kind of died, and then we played better after halftime. One of these days we’re going to put the whole thing together, and when we do, we’ll take another step. But I think the biggest thing I’ve got to do tomorrow and next week is got to come up with some better substitution patterns. Every time I do, Arnie just couldn’t get back in, so that screws that up. During the week we work with him and not Gabe as much. So the way — and then Nick got in so much foul trouble, we could not keep a steady rotation there. But I think besides the assists, the job Cassius did. You know, when Nick Ward made those three or four plays in a row that kept the ball with us, probably the — most people wouldn’t look at that as anything. That was about two minutes’ worth of game-winning situations for us. I’m pleased where Nick is coming. I really was hoping to play him 16, 18 minutes today. But he’ll get his chance. There will be another game to play.”
Kenny Goins said, “ It’s big time, especially in these games against good teams. If you get down at all against a good team, they usually take advantage of it. We’re going to have to do the same thing tomorrow and hopefully, we can sustain that through the entire half now.”
The Spartans were led by a hobbled Cassius Winston who had 21 points, two rebounds, and six assists. Kenny Goins had a double-double 13 points 12 rebounds and four assists. Xavier Tillman added 17 points and seven rebounds and four assists. Those three are the only Spartans to score in double digits.
Izzo said of the game, “You know, it was a grind of a game. I say that every time I play Wisconsin, it hasn’t changed. It’s part of the culture they have that started with Dick and Bo, and Greg has done an unbelievable job, too. I thought the difference in the game early, we made all our shots and they missed some wide-open shots. I mean, they ran some good stuff, missed some good shots, and then as we got going, I thought we played pretty well. The turnovers that still haunt us. We had some very unforced turnovers. I thought we got something out of Henry rebounding the ball. That was big. He gets 11 rebounds. The rebounding, in general, was big for us, out-rebounding them like that. The assists to the baskets was really big for us. Whenever you get 18 assists on 23 baskets that means your guys are moving the ball, and that’s the kind of team I have. Cassius, I guess, hurt another ankle or a different one, and that’s why he was kind of hobbling around before halftime. You know, when I just asked him if he could grit out the second half, and you know what? He gritted it out. I thought we missed some shots in the second half. McQuaid, I didn’t realize it, they said Tillman is afraid of heights, so every time he gets up there he’s missing some of those dunks, so hopefully, we’ll work on that this week. But all in all, gritty performance by us. I thought a gritty performance by them. They never quit. They came back. And we’re going to have to somehow get ready to get back up tomorrow.”
Cassius Winston said of playing for a title, “another chance at a championship. That’s what we play for here. That’s what it’s all about at Michigan State. You win these, you get banner
Izzo added of the chance to play Michigan again for the third time this season, “people used to laugh at me when I said, of course, I hate my rival. Who wants to hug and kiss the guy that took your girlfriend, you know? It doesn’t make any sense. But I have great respect for them, and I do agree with him. I think we’re on the exact same page, that if we can make this into a Duke-Carolina, you know — and I’m not trying to say we’ve gotten there yet because some of that is over a test of time. But whenever you’re playing in games that matters in the state, that’s big. Matters in the conference, that’s big. When it starts to matter nationally, then you’ve got yourselves something special. When both teams — early on in my career when we were ranked I think 250th or whatever and they were good, then we were ranked in the top and they weren’t very good, it’s hard to have a rivalry. So we got what the media wants, what the fans want, and believe it or not, what the coaches want because it is important that big games matter, and big games that matter nationally are even bigger games.”
Cassius Winston said of the chance to possibly play the Wolverines, “ It would be great, but right now we’re just focused on the championship game. Whoever wins to play in the championship game, that’s who we’re going to play.”
Xavier Tillman said afterward, “ This school is a winning school. That’s what we do. That’s the mindset. Coach Izzo having his 600th win yesterday just means how important winning is to this school. That’s just the culture of Michigan State basketball. We’re going to play hard, we’re going to try to outwork each other, out-tough you and win some important games.”
The Spartans shot 43% from the field including 43% from the three. The Spartans shot an outstanding 80% from the free throw line. The Spartans had 18 assists on 23 baskets.
The Spartans won the battle of the boards 44-30. The Spartans had a frustrating 15 turnovers. The Badgers had a 40-22 advantage with points in the paint and a whopping 15-2 edge over the Spartans.
Izzo played 10 players including four of his five freshmen.
The Spartans return to Big Ten action on tomorrow at 3:30 PM ET back here at the United Center in Chicago at the Big Ten Tournament. They will play the winner of the Michigan and Minnesota game going on now.
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