A lot of people were in the “MSU needs to win a gritty one” camp.
Well, there it was. This game had it all – a double-digit deficit, key players in foul trouble and a tough road environment.
I’m not going to anoint this as the best win this season, but it’s definitely up there. Let’s dive into it…
Does anyone in the world have a shorter memory than Cassius Winston? His first half was abysmal – three turnovers, two fouls and zero points in five minutes of action. His second half? Thirteen points and four assists, including late free throws to ice the game. Without him flipping a one-eighty on his game, MSU flies home with a loss.
Should Winston have played more in the first half? On one hand, he was erratic and had two fouls. On the other hand, Tum Tum Nairn had to play the last 11 minutes of the half where the offense only generated 11 points in that span.
It’s no secret – Nairn is an offensive liability. No one is within a mile of him on offense, giving the opponent an extra body to throw in the key to make entry passes difficult. Could Winston’s presence given MSU a better halftime margin than 13 to overcome? We will never know, but it’s worth a debate.
Tom Izzo played Jaren Jackson’s foul situation pretty well. Jackson picked up his third foul almost immediately in the second half, and instead of auto-benching him, he stayed out there and buried a 3-pointer in MSU’s early second half run.
Jaren then picked up foul No. 4 with 11:23 left in the game, but MSU was able to perform without him. Luckily.
Jaren also had a monster play in the late-game heroics, coming up with that block in the lane when MSU’s lead was just four points.
Other late game heroics included Langford’s free throws. Winston’s 3-pointer to make it 61-53 with 5:43 left on the clock. And, of course, the tip-in by Kenny Goins off Nick Ward’s missed free throw.
We also learned Josh Langford can levitate. He picked MSU over Hogwarts, which is a huge whiff for them.
Biggest dunk during the game didn’t even happen in the game. Instead, it was on Twitter.
Vegas struck again this game. The spread was MSU -6. The over/under was 142. That’s a projected final score of 74-68.
What was the final score? 74-68.
Up next is Penn State on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. (that’s a weird time, right?)
Penn State showed it has what it takes to beat top tier teams with its road win at Ohio State last week. Should be a great test before hitting this gauntlet that includes four road games and that home game against Purdue.