No. 9 Michigan State snapped its 3-game losing streak against Minnesota in a 79-55 victory at the Breslin Center Saturday afternoon. In attendance: Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, among other players from the 1979 championship team to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
“One thing I love about this place — people would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to hear the speech I just heard,” said Izzo when he stepped up to the podium. “Those guys (1979 team) were unbelievable and reminded us that they too in that year went 4-4 in their start, almost didn’t make the tournament. So everybody goes through some adversity.”
The Spartans came out with a momentum that has been lacking for the three previous games. Ward led the Spartans with 22 points and 9 rebounds and got the team out to an early lead. The Golden Gophers opted not to double-team him, allowing for some easy buckets.
Winston said that the biggest thing he noticed for Ward going into this game was his energy level.
“He attacked people, he brought the fight with people, he got up and down the court,” said Winston. “You know, it’s a handful down there to guard him, so he just kept attacking people, putting pressure on them. Eventually, I’m pretty sure he’s going to win that battle each and every time.”
Matt McQuaid soon got going after that, and between those two alone, the Spartans had enough to help give them a lead and then some. He finished with 18 points and 5 rebounds, just shy of his career-high of 20 points.
With Cassius Winston getting two early fouls, Foster Loyer played early minutes. Izzo also put Aaron Henry and Thomas Kithier in — a majority freshmen lineup that did well on the floor.
Marcus Bingham Jr. even got some minutes in the game after Kenny Goins went out with an injury to his left elbow. Izzo confirmed that it is not broken, but does not know more than that.
“Everybody’s got to step up,” said McQuaid. “I feel like the freshmen did an even better job of stepping up... we had a great crowd our the ‘79 team was here, so that made the atmosphere that much better.”
Izzo said that accountability is what this team is and has been missing and after the effort given in practice last week, he expects to learn from this.
“I threw caution to the wind a couple of days ago and just said, ‘We’re just going to get after it,’” said Izzo. “We’re not going to get beat because we’re not playing hard enough, and I think that’s the lesson of the day. We’ll see where it takes us from here.”