East Lansing, MI
The #9 Michigan State Spartans saw their record on the year improve to 25-6 (16-4) with a 75-63 win over their arch-rival the #6 Michigan Wolverines. It was the biggest game in Breslin Center history and the biggest game of this storied rivalry.
Spartan Hall of Fame head coach Tom Izzo raved about the game saying, “I always tell my guys, 'you've gotta try to leave some mark here.' Yeah, it's easy to leave a mark of winning the Big Ten or going to a Final Four or win the Big Ten Tournament. But this group did something that no other group has done. They won a Big Ten Championship on senior night against their rival. It's just another one I check the box on. Someday, they'll be remembered for that. It's always cool when guys leave doing something that no one else has done. At least it's cool to me. The atmosphere in there, the way Michigan played so good defensively in the first half, that was a helluva game. I'm sure they're disappointed because it just kinda seemed like, when things started to go wrong, they snowballed. A lot of respect for both programs, but a lot of respect for mine, from the standpoint that we've been grinding all year. That's what we are. We're a blue-collar team that's gonna stay blue-collar till the day I walk out of this building. I'm proud of them for that.”
John Beilein the terrific Michigan Coach added of the rivalry, “Both games really were like great atmospheres. If they listen to probably Tom and I say, 'Make this the last game of every year for years,' we will be in this thing. Now will we always be playing for a championship, you don't know, but I think it's a great concept for us to look at. Who won the Duke-North Carolina game? Isn't that a great thing for us to have. I was just thinking about last year. They won the regular season last year too, right? We won the Big Ten Championship. You guys should be writing about that stuff - In our own state. There are 14 teams in the league, and you got the two champions last year and maybe we'll do it again. It's great. It's a great time for big-time basketball in this state and it's wonderful. I know you appreciate that I'm not going to say you don't appreciate that, but this is a very unique situation. We're all in, we have two great programs and let's just hope we both keep it going for as long as we can because it's great entertainment; It's great Saturday night basketball.”
The Spartans were led by the amazing Cassius Winston who had 23 points, four rebounds, and five assists. Matt McQuaid had 17 points and six rebounds while playing 33 minutes. Kenny Goins did not score in double digits, but he had 16 rebounds and nine points.
Izzo said of Goins who started at Michigan State as a walk-on, “He's done so many things. Zero points and 17 rebounds against like Louisville, no one in hell does that. That's a memory-maker. I bet you that no one in the history of this school will do that. So Kenny's got his own stamp, but the way he's improved his shooting, my staff and he all deserve credit for that. Not a real confident kid, started getting more confidence, became one of our best defensive players. I think Kenny Goins has been good in so many areas. His rebounding has been solid all year, but it's the shooting now, the way he can switch and do things. He can guard a point guard to a center. Those guys are versatile guys, and boy, those guys are valuable.”
Tom Izzo said of the game, “It was a weird game. Give Michigan credit, they came out and put it right to us. We looked out of sync. I don't know if we were nervous, I don't know what we were. We had a great couple days of practice. They played well, and I thought we played poorly (in the first half). I didn't think our energy was there, we made mistakes. They had a 12-5 turnover edge at halftime. I think what won the game for us is only being down six at halftime. That thing could've been 16. That was a big difference in the game. We talked about at halftime, I thought my four best players were all in the fog. Part of that was Michigan, part of that was us. The atmosphere in there, John (Beilein) was right, this should be the last game of the year, here or there. Maybe we'll work into that because it was a helluva basketball game with an electric crowd. Didn't get a lot of shots in the first half, they didn't make as many shots in the second half. We did a better job second half. It was a hard-fought win, the score is not indicative of the game. I'm proud of my guys, I really am. At halftime, I wasn't proud of them. Didn't think we did the things that you need to do in a big game like this. Gotta figure out why, but for tonight and tomorrow, I don't even care why. I'll enjoy this one like I've not enjoyed any.”
Beilein added of the game, “ I think we imploded a little bit on a couple occasions where they just blocked a couple shots during that time and that was huge and then we missed some shots, we even had a couple air balls and that's real tough for us. Now they're out, and they didn't miss at their end. We lost some coverages in transition. We got put in some great rotations and we tried to stay out of that more than we were last time, but they got them. They only made six threes and that's a goal for us to keep people to five or six threes and they only made six right, but they got to the foul line like crazy. We don't foul and somehow; we got in big foul trouble today so blame me for that.”
The Spartans shot 47% from the field including 27% from the three. The Spartans shot an acceptable 77% from the free throw line. The Spartans had 12 assists on 23 baskets.
Izzo said of Xavier Tillman and his amazing play, “I'm trying to figure out how to politely answer this. X is my most cerebral, toughest, hardest working guy and in the first half I asked him what planet he was on. Pluto, Mars, Venus, U.P…. where in the hell are you. Some of the things we wanted to do, he struggles with. Even in the second half some. It was uncharacteristic to him. He started going to work then and we started saying we were going to get the ball inside a little more and there were free throws he made. The rebounds. He started playing a little better defensively. We had some problems the way they were screening us. They were using some guards to screen down the bigs and we were getting clipped and caught. Again, good job by them and we made some adjustments and X played better. The first half, I guess he was in the dog house. It's a big dog house for X… a really big one. It wasn't I thought his best half and yet what does he end up with… 17 points, eight rebounds, 9-for-12 from the line and 4-for-5 from the field. It just goes to prove why maybe I'm on a different planet. Maybe I'm the one that's wrong.”
The Spartans won the battle of the boards 46-20. The Spartans a frustrating 13 turnovers.
Kenny Goins said of the game, “It is kind of picture perfect. We have been through hell and back and we pulled out the trifecta with Michigan, the championship and senior night. It doesn't get any better than this.”
Izzo played 10 players including four of his five freshmen.
The Spartans return to Big Ten action on Friday at the United Center in Chicago at the Big Ten Tournament.
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