Slump busted. Sunday saved. Michigan sad.
After some tough losses, and the emergence of legit bubble talk, Michigan State is back in the win column after knocking off Michigan.
How’d they do it...
1. Playing Big
We mentioned in the preview that Michigan is a big team, but doesn’t always play like it. That didn’t play out entirely — they had 13 offensive rebounds to MSU’s 8 — but it came to bit in regards to post defense, where they had no answer for Nick Ward or Miles Bridges.
MSU’s freshman frontcourt combined for 28 points on 13-of-23 shooting — including a perfect 6-for-6 day in only 18 minutes from Ward — simply overwhelming the taller DJ Wilson and Mo Wagner. It was length vs brawn and brawn won the day.
2. Winning with Winston
Another thing you’ve heard a lot on this site is that for this Michigan State team to reach its ceiling, Cassius Winston needs to be their point guard. Today, he was not only the best guard but the best player.
Winston paced the team with 16 points, including 10-of-11 shooting from the free throw line, three assists and a steal. But more than the raw numbers, he just seemed in control. The freshman brings a level of creativity and playmaking that Tum Tum Nairn doesn’t and you saw it all day in his nifty finishes and tough cross court passes — a few of which were to a suddenly resurgent Matt McQuaid.
For this team to gain consistency Winston needs to turn the freshman corner. Today was a great sign that he might be doing just that.
3. Zak’s Tough Day
Zak Irvin had arguably the worst game of his career today, going scoreless and finishing 0-8 from the field. Not much to say besides that Michigan is not going to win many games when he is going this way.
The much maligned MSU perimeter defense deserves some credit, though. Michigan took 26 threes — still far too many — but only hit seven, many of which were contested. Ward also did a much better job than expected checking Wagner and Wilson in his fairly limited time on the floor.
Defense leads to wins. Weird.
Only eight days until these two teams play again. Until then, just remember