#2 Michigan State Spartans Advance To The Final Four By Beating #1 Duke Blue Devils
Capital One Arena
The #2 Michigan State Spartans saw their record on the year improve to 32-6 with a 68-67 win over the #1 Duke Blue Devils. It was a heavyweight fight between two of the coaching titans of the game, well officiated and one of the greatest basketball games of all time.
Tom Izzo said of the contest, “I’m telling you, I was moved by how -- I think I would have been crushed, I think I would have given him credit, I think I would have given him a hug and wished him luck. But the way he was and the way his players were, it made me feel good about my profession again because I've had some question marks in the last couple of years.”
Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “I thought Winston was a difference-maker. And whenever we did get a three-, four-point lead or it was close, it was close all the time. But he made big plays, either scoring or assisting. He's the best guard we've played against. Ten assists and one turnover.”
The Spartans were led by Cassius Winston’s double-double who had 20 points and 10 assists. Xavier Tillman had 19 points and nine rebounds. Kenny Goins rounded out the double-digit contributors with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Izzo added of the game, “So big win for us. I can't tell you how many times in those huddles they didn't quit. They didn't give in. And I say we might not be as physically as tough as some teams I've had, but I think mentally we might be tougher than any team I've had. And that's a big credit to the guys next to me and the guys in the locker room.”
Mike Krzyzewski said of Winston, “ I think it is an experience thing along with talent. And he is as good a player as we've played against. I mean, he's a big-time player. And I thought they played older than we did, you know. But that's happened to us -- we are young.”
Izzo added, “I can't tell you how proud I am of these guys for what they've gone through and how they've handled it. And even the prep yesterday, this morning.”
Zion Williamson told Spartan Nation of the effort of the Spartans, “They did everything we expected them to do. Hat's off to them. They're a great team. They played a great game. And Winston, he took over. My hat's off to them. They're a great team.”
Matt McQuaid said, “All my focus was on doing the best job I could to help this team win. I wasn't thinking of that. I love this team. This is a special team. We've got a special group. We've got a great coach.”
The Spartans shot a mediocre 43% from the field including an unattractive 32% from the three. The Spartans shot a horrific 33% from the free throw line. The Spartans had 18 assists on 30 baskets.
Williamson raved about the defensive prowess of Xavier Tillman on him. “he played great, solid defense. And I think what they did was, I think when I catch it on the post they would bring or two or three defenders, so I wouldn't be able to do spin. And it was great defense obviously. He played great defense.”
The Spartans lost the battle of the boards 42-31. The Spartans had an impressive seven turnovers for the contest.
Izzo played seven players including two of his five freshmen.
The Spartans advance to the FINAL FOUR where they will play next Saturday against Texas Tech in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I asked Coach K after the game about how he saw the Spartans moving forward to the Final Four and his analysis of their chances to cut down the nets. “Look, Tom has a great program. And they have terrific teams each year. And they're always, just like us, they're always knocking on the championship door. A number of times we've played against one another -- and tonight I think they showed -- with Winston, you have a player that can make the right play at the right time and he has tremendous poise.”
He continued saying, “And Tre was playing crazy on him, how hard. And I was impressed just with how well he was able to not just handle the pressure but still run his team. Like, he had as good a performance as any player has had against us. And in going forward, with the system that they have, the defense they play, the rebounding and him they have a heck of a chance. They have a heck of a chance to win it all.”
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