#6 Michigan State Spartans Drop the #10 Michigan Wolverines for Big Ten Tournament Title
The #6 Michigan State Spartans saw their record on the year improve to 28-6 with a 65-00 win over their arch-rival the Michigan Wolverines. It was the third time these two teams have played in 21 days with the Spartans winning all three.
Spartan Hall of Fame head coach Tom Izzo said of the contest, “I've never been prouder of a team in my life. Coaches say that every time after they win and year after year, and I've had some incredible teams and incredible guys, but what these guys have been through nobody will ever know, and the way they have handled it and hung in there. Again today, a very, very, very good team. We played very well in the first 10 minutes. They went on a 20-6 run and played extremely well. They are well-coached. They are a good team and probably outplayed us most of the second half, and yet the grit and the determination at halftime. I'm disappointed because Xavier was in foul trouble early, and played a freshman some, and we tried to play Nick some, which was okay offensively, and some struggle defensively, just because of some things we did. And then Cassius I didn't think was playing very good and we didn't think Matt was looking for his shot and we didn't think Kenny was looking for his. So that's my four best players in the last month and yet we're down eight and we told them that. We haven't played well and we're down eight. They played better. Cassius was unbelievable and McQuaid was even better than him, and Xavier made some big plays, and we found a way to beat a very good team that, as I said, probably outplayed us more than we outplayed them.”
John Beilein said, “Congratulations to Michigan State. They played a terrific game, and just really made some plays that we could not make. I don't recall them taking a bad shot the entire game. That's really important. If you're going to win basketball games, you've got to minimize turnovers and you've got to minimize bad shots and just make good decisions. They did a great job with it. I'm proud of the way our guys played. Obviously, they have got a lot of things to learn but they are really a tough matchup for us. They are just a bad matchup for us. It's really difficult to play, and so they got us again. We've had three games with them and we've led in the second half three games, but in the things that really matter at times throughout the whole game, they beat us in some of those intangibles and they win.”
The Spartans were led by senior captain Matt McQuaid. He went off for 27 points and four rebounds while playing 39 of the games 40 minutes. A hobbled Cassius Winston had a double-double garnering 14 points and 11 assists in 38 minutes. Xavier Tillman rounded out the double-digit stat guys with nine points and 11 rebounds.
Izzo said of the game, “There's a lot of reasons I have pride in my team. But at halftime when Ernie came walking in there, everybody thought it was broke and it wasn't broke; but you know, he's probably done for the year. It's badly, badly sprained. But the way they wrapped around him and then Josh, you know, emotional, and him, and I think at his expense it gave us a lift if you want the truth. He handled it so well. Josh has handled it so well because we needed an emotional lift at halftime. I don't know why, you know, I got a lot of texts from former players today. Steve Smith might have been the best one. He said, "Don't worry about the physical; they will fight through that. It's mental fatigue." And we were mentally making mistake after mistake on our coverages, even some of our best guys and I'm sure that was a little bit the mental fatigue.”
Cassius Winston said, “We just stuck with each other. We trusted each other and we did everything for our teammates. It wasn’t selfish. We did everything for our teammates and our guys had our backs.”
Izzo added, “Well, you know, we've had a lot of games against my rival. You know, early on, I was getting my brains beat in and then we did some beating in and now it's been a pretty solid thing. You know, last year, they got us twice when we had a really about team and that's what rivalries are. I don't think you could ask for a better game except that it was a little low-scoring, but both teams clawed and scratched and had a hell of a game. Maybe that's the way it's going to be from here on out. Maybe we get this thing where some of the great rivalries are, and that's fine with me and I'm sure it's fine with John. If we're playing -- like I told a lot of people on Thursday, Wednesday, I did some radio shows in Michigan, and Michigan fans called in and said, "Well, we'll see if they are there Sunday." I said, "I sure as hell hope so, and you should too because that means your team survived." Because it wasn't easy to survive this tournament with the good teams that were in it.”
Matt McQuaid said afterward, “It’s definitely up there, if not the most important. Winning another championship, in the tournament, in the Big Ten Tournament is big for us. Michigan’s a really good team, they were playing us good and we just kept fighting.”
The Spartans shot 40% from the field including 39% from the three. The Spartans shot an acceptable 75% from the free throw line. The Spartans had 14 assists on 22 baskets.
The Spartans won the battle of the boards 38-29. The Spartans had a successful nine turnovers.
Izzo played nine players including three of his five freshmen.
The Spartans came back to win by going on a 10-0 run over the final 2:02 of the contest for the big win.
Afterward, the Spartans found out where who and when they will play in the Big Dance. MSU got the #2 seed in the East Region and will face Bradley in Des Moines on Thursday. They have played them four times and are 4-0 all time. They are in the same bracket as Duke.
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